Clavier Companion - May/June 2015 - 49
Un poco più animato
Tempo del Tema
feature is the use of rapid chords in the right hand
with octaves in the left hand, often in a question and
answer dialogue (see Excerpt 4).
Excerpt 4: Variations sérieuses, Op. 54, by Felix Mendelssohn, mm. 49-50.
poco a poco più agitato
Variation One maintains the same melodic and harmonic content as the theme, as well as its phrase structure,
but increases the underlying rhythmic motion from
eighth notes to sixteenth notes. Also, the bass line is
now written in octaves and is marked staccato. The
performer should be careful to note the differences in
articulation between the hands (see Excerpt 2).
Variation Four maintains the drive of Variation Three
and shows the first obvious use of contrapuntal imitation. The writing at times resembles that of a two-part
canon and is to be played sempre staccato e leggiero
(see Excerpt 5).
Excerpt 5: Variations sérieuses, Op. 54, by Felix Mendelssohn, mm. 65-66.
Excerpt 2: Variations sérieuses, Op. 54, by Felix Mendelssohn, mm. 17-18.
Variation Two is marked Un poco più animato and
increases the rhythmic motion further by featuring sixteenth sextuplets. The phrase structure and harmonic
progression are maintained, but the theme itself is
slightly varied, though still recognizable (see Excerpt 3).
While the agitato theme in Variation Five is more noticeably similar to the original than in the previous two
variations, the left-hand harmony is now syncopated
and is anchored by a tonic pedal point. This results in
an arrival of D major at the midpoint of the sixteen-bar
variation instead of the expected F major sonority.
This may very well be a preview of things to come (see
Excerpt 6: Variations sérieuses, Op. 54, by Felix Mendelssohn, mm. 81-82.
Excerpt 3: Variations sérieuses, Op. 54, by Felix Mendelssohn, mm. 33-34.
This leads directly into Variation Three, which is
marked Più animato. Here the theme is less apparent,
although its contour is still present. Its most notable
Variation Six is a dialogue of registers, with two
eighth-note chords sounded in the low register followed by two eighth-note chords in the high register. To show the dialogue, it's often effective to have
differing dynamics between the two registers (see