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The Politics of AppropriationGerman Romantic Music and the Ancient Greek Legacy$
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Jason Geary

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780199736119

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: April 2014

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199736119.001.0001

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Mendelssohn and Oedipus in the Age of Christianity

Mendelssohn and Oedipus in the Age of Christianity

(p.135) Chapter Five Mendelssohn and Oedipus in the Age of Christianity
The Politics of Appropriation

Jason Geary

Oxford University Press

This chapter explores Mendelssohn’s music to Sophocles’ Oedipus at Colonus (1845), which also premiered at the Prussian court and was performed publicly in Berlin. Highlighting the extent to which Mendelssohn adopted an approach similar to that of Antigone, this chapter focuses in particular on the role of his music in reconciling contemporary listeners to the mystical nature of Sophocles’ play through several allusions to music of the Protestant tradition, including two passages of chorale-like music and one that recalls Handel’s Messiah, the latter coinciding with Oedipus’ miraculous transformation through death into the resident protector of Colonus and nearby Athens. In this way, Mendelssohn’s score both responds to elements of the ongoing plot and at the same time effectively translates the pagan spirit of antiquity into a modern, Christian one that reflects Friedrich Wilhelm’s efforts to establish Prussia as a distinctly Christian-German state.

Keywords:   Mendelssohn, Oedipus, Christian-German, Chorale, Allusion

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