Multiple Formal Paths in Mendelssohn's "Lied ohne Worte" Op. 30, No. 6

John Peterson, James Madison University

Mendelssohn's Lied ohne Worte Op. 30, No. 6 ("Venetianisches Gondellied") has been the subject of analyses by such scholars as Heinrich Schenker (1924 and 1935), Edward Levy (1983), William Rothstein (1989), and Poundie Burstein (2006). Schenker, Rothstein, and Levy all graph the work as an uninterrupted structure, even though a back-relating dominant that supports 2̂ in the soprano is present. What is missing, however, is a thematic restatement on tonic following this potential point of interruption. Of the three scholars who graph the work, only Rothstein (1989) addresses the moment directly. He identifies a conflict between the work's thematic design and its harmonic structure. His thematic design reading suggests a rounded binary form, while his harmonic-structural reading identifies a quaternary structure. The tension between these two readings largely arises because of the lack of thematic return on tonic. In this paper, I argue that the back-relating dominant supports an unconventional interruption due to its prominence and gestural significance. I propose that this alternative reading coexists with that of Rothstein's and that their divergence results from a conflict involving two musical agents in the work: the Gondolier Agent and the Covering Agent. The path taken by the Gondolier Agent would result in a rounded binary harmonic structure, while that of the Covering Agent produces Rothstein's quaternary form.