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MusicPart of Humanities

Julian Horton - Hartley Residency Seminar

Julian Horton
21 - 22 January 2020
Building 6, room 1077

For more information regarding this seminar, please email Dr David Bretherton at .

Event details

The Department of Music is delighted to welcome Prof. Julian Horton (Durham University) for the second Hartley Residency of the 2019/2020 academic year.


Day 1: Tuesday 21 January 2020


Introductory seminar for postgraduates (masters and PhD students). Material that should be read/prepared in advance has already been circulated.


One-to-one meetings between Julian Horton and PhD students: Please email David Bretherton ( by 1pm on Friday 17 January to book a slot


Formal presentation: Prof. Julian Horton (Durham University), ‘Rethinking Sonata Failure: Mendelssohn’s Zum Märchen von der schönen Melusine and the Problem of Romantic Form’ (speaker biography and paper abstract available below)


Drinks reception in the Arlott Bar.


Day 2: Wednesday 22 January 2020


One-to-one meetings between Julian Horton and PhD students: Please email David Bretherton ( by 1pm on Friday 17 January to book a slot


Formal presentation: Alberto Martin (University of Southampton), ‘Isaac Albéniz and the sentence principle as “the peak of organic-dramatic beauty”’


Closing roundtable: ‘Is Music Analysis Still Dead?’

Panellists: Dr David Bretherton (University of Southampton), Prof. Julian Horton (Durham University), Dr Thomas Irvine (University of Southampton), Anna Kent-Muller (University of Southampton), Alberto Martin (University of Southampton)


Rethinking Sonata Failure: Mendelssohn’s Zum Märchen von der schönen Melusine and the Problem of Romantic Form

Julian Horton - Durham University

Mendelssohn’s instrumental music has long attracted criticism. Beyond the superficial complaint that his excessive facility tended to produce facile music, more substantive objections have centred on an apparent inability to fuse a lyrical style with the dynamic, developmental needs of sonata form (Krummacher 1974; Vitercik 1989). Of late, however, analysts preoccupied with the problems that Romantic sonatas disclose have unearthed a world of complexity in Mendelssohn’s music, for which the aged clichés of reception history struggle to account (Taylor 2011; Wingfield and Horton 2012, Vande Moortele 2017, Smith 2019).

This paper investigates one of Mendelssohn’s most complex and evasive sonata essays, the Overture Zum Märchen von der schönen Melusine of 1834. Melusine’s irregularities – which include the replacement of the entire first-theme recapitulation with material drawn from the introduction, the non-tonic return of the second theme and failure of the recapitulation closing section to reach any satisfactory cadence – invoke what James Hepokoski and Warren Darcy (1997, 2002 and 2006) have called ‘sonata failure’: a breakdown of the formal process, which is not rescued within the confines of the exposition, development and recapitulation. I bring this perspective on Melusine into dialogue with more recent approaches to Romantic form, exploring the tension between a concept of failure measured in relation to classical precedent and the strikingly post-classical techniques that enervate Melusine’s form.

Speaker information

Julian Horton, Professor of Music Theory and Analysis at Durham University. Julian was educated at Trinity College, Cambridge, where he subsequently held a Research Fellowship, and has also taught at University College Dublin and at King’s College, London. He has been President of the Society for Music Analysis and has served on the councils of the Royal Musical Association and the Society for Musicology in Ireland, of which he was recent elected a Foreign Corresponding Member. Julian’s research concerns nineteenth-century instrumental music, with foci on the analysis of sonata form, the theory of tonality, the music of Brahms, Bruckner and Schubert, the symphony, and the piano concerto. He is author of Bruckner’s Symphonies: Analysis, Reception and Cultural Politics (Cambridge University Press 2004) and Brahms’ Piano Concerto No. 2, Op. 83: Analytical and Contextual Studies (Peeters 2017), editor of The Cambridge Companion to the Symphony (2013), co-editor with Gareth Cox of Irish Musical Studies XI: Irish Musical Analysis (Four Courts Press 2013), with Lorraine Byrne Bodley of Schubert’s Late Style (Cambridge University Press 2016) and Rethinking Schubert (Oxford University Press 2016) and with Jeremy Dibble of British Musical Criticism and Intellectual Thought 1850–1950 (Boydell 2017). He has published articles in Music Analysis, Music and Letters, Musical Quarterly, Music Theory and Analysis and the Journal of the Society for Musicology in Ireland, and has contributed to The Cambridge Companion to Bruckner, The Cambridge Companion to Vaughan Williams, The Oxford Handbook of Topic Theory and The Encyclopaedia of Music in Ireland. In 2012, he was awarded the Westrup Prize of the Music and Letters Trust for the article ‘John Field and the Alternative History of Concerto First-movement Form’. In 2016, he was appointed Music Theorist in Residence to the Netherlands and Flanders. He is currently writing The Symphony: A History for Cambridge University Press and is collaborating with Steven Vande Moortele (Toronto) and Benedict Taylor (Edinburgh) on a large-scale empirical study of nineteenth-century sonata forms.

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