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# Was Felix Mendelssohn (1809–1847) a great composer?

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Was Felix Mendelssohn (1809–1847) a great composer? [#permalink]  05 Jan 2016, 06:34
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5% (low)

Question Stats:

0% (00:00) correct 0% (00:00) wrong based on 0 sessions
Was Felix Mendelssohn (1809–1847) a great composer? On its face, the question seems absurd. One of the most gifted prodigies in the history of music, he produced his first masterpiece at sixteen. From then on, he was recognized as an artist of preternatural abilities, not only as a composer but also as a pianist and conductor. But Mendelssohn’s enduring popularity has often been at odds — sometimes quite sharply — with his critical standing. Despite general acknowledgment of his genius, there has been a noticeable reluctance to rank him with, say, Schumann or Brahms. As Haggin put it, Mendelssohn, as a composer, was a “minor master . . . working on a small scale of emotion and texture.”
1. Select a sentence in the passage whose function is to indicate the range of Mendelssohn’s musical talents.

[Reveal] Spoiler:
Fourth sentence (“From then. . . conductor”)

2. The passage suggests that anyone attempting to evaluate Mendelssohn’s career must confront which of the following dichotomies?

A) The tension between Mendelssohn’s career as a composer and his career as a pianist and conductor
B) The contrast between Mendelssohn’s popularity and that of Schumann and Brahms
C) The discrepancy between Mendelssohn’s popularity and his standing among critics
D) The inconsistency between Mendelssohn’s reputation during his lifetime and his reputation since his death
E) The gap between Mendelssohn’s prodigious musical beginnings and his decline in later years

[Reveal] Spoiler:
C

3. It can be inferred that the “reluctance” mentioned in the passage is being ascribed to
A) most composers since Mendelssohn
B) Schumann and Brahms
C) the music-listening public
D) music critics generally
E) Haggin exclusively
[Reveal] Spoiler:
D

4. The author mentions Schumann and Brahms primarily in order to
A) provide examples of composers who are often compared with
Mendelssohn
B) identify certain composers who are more popular than Mendelssohn
C) identify composers whom Mendelssohn influenced
D) establish the milieu in which Mendelssohn worked
E) establish a standard of comparison for Mendelssohn as a composer
[Reveal] Spoiler:
E

Practice Questions
Question: 2,3,4,5
Page: 57
Difficulty: easy

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Director
Joined: 16 May 2014
Posts: 599
GRE 1: 326 Q165 V161
Followers: 63

Kudos [?]: 249 [0], given: 64

Re: Was Felix Mendelssohn (1809–1847) a great composer? [#permalink]  05 Jan 2016, 06:40
Expert's post

Explanation

1. This question asks which sentence in the passage serves to indicate the range of Mendelssohn’s musical talents. The correct answer is the fourth sentence (“From then . . . conductor”), the only sentence in the passage that mentions Mendelssohn’s achievements across three different realms: composing, piano performance, and conducting. All the other sentences can be eliminated because, while they consider the question of Mendelssohn’s claim to greatness, they do not specifically discuss the broad range of his musical talents.

2. C
The passage clearly presents the discrepancy between Mendelssohn’s popularity and his critical standing as an interpretive problem. Therefore, Choice C is correct. The other answer choices are incorrect because the passage never indicates that there was any conflict among the different aspects of Mendelssohn’s professional life; never discusses Schumann’s and Brahms’s popularity; does not discuss any differences between Mendelssohn’s reputation during his lifetime and after his death; and makes no mention of a decline in Mendelssohn’s later life.

3. D
The “reluctance” is mentioned in the context of a discussion about Mendelssohn’s critical standing and thus is being ascribed to music critics generally.
Choices A and B can be eliminated because the passage does not discuss any composers’ views of Mendelssohn. Choice C is incorrect because the word “reluctance” is mentioned only after the passage turns from discussing the popular view of Mendelssohn to the critical view. Choice E is incorrect because the words “As Haggin put it” indicate that Haggin is only one example of critics who have this reluctance.

4. E
Schumann and Brahms are mentioned as a way of explaining how critics rank Mendelssohn — that is, as less accomplished than some other composers who are
widely acknowledged as major. Therefore, Choice E is correct. Choice A might look like a correct answer at first glance. However, careful consideration reveals that the point the author is making when Schumann and Brahms are mentioned is not the frequency of that comparison but the results of it. Therefore, Choice A can be eliminated. Choices B, C, and D are incorrect because the passage does not discuss Schumann’s and Brahms’s popularity, Mendelssohn’s influence on other composers, or the milieu in which Mendelssohn worked.
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Re: Was Felix Mendelssohn (1809–1847) a great composer?   [#permalink] 05 Jan 2016, 06:40
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