Several of Mendelssohn's minor-mode songs, duets, and choral songs feature a peculiar tonal move: a sudden shift takes us to the relative major (without a "modulation" proper), but the opening minor key soon returns equally abruptly (via its V). Closer examination of these pieces suggests that the composer used the major-mode excursus as a topos, whose associations include the ideas of farewell, wandering, and distance (the latter both in the geographical and chronological sense, in accordance with the shift's quasi-modal--thus equally exotic and archaic--character). I suggest that this topos may have influenced the tonal structure of at least three large-scale Mendelssohn compositions, all of which are closely related to the same exotic and historical ideas. In the Hebrides Overture the relationship between the primary B minor and the secondary D major is (for a sonata-form movement) exceptionally equal: rather than acting as sharply contrasting tonal areas, they almost appear as two sides of the same key. The first-act finale of the unfinished opera, Die Lorelei, elaborates the original topos in another way: the E-minor-G-major kernel is extended in both directions, resulting in a chain of third-related keys, which eventually takes us back to the opening E level (now turned into major). In the light of this example, the (less complete) third-layered tonal structure of the "Scottish" Symphony may also be understood as growing out from the same miniature song topos.
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