Gondola is a small flat-bottomed rowing boat in Venice, Italy. We are more familiar with another related musical genre, barcarolle in music history. Bacarolle originally means folk songs sung by gondolier (boatman of gondola). Some romantic period composers such as Chopin, Faure and Tschaikovsky have composed bacarolle for solo piano. “Belle nuit, ô nuit d’amour”, from opera The Tales of Hoffmann by Offenbach is the famous barcarolle. I think it should be the first barcarolle we piano player learnt because you can easily find the simplified solo piano versions of this song from John Thompson and other piano method books.
Mendelssohn uses Gondellied as title here but we can guess the piece is in barcarolle style. Moreover, Henle publishes this piece with three Venetian Gondola Song from Songs without words , albums of piano miniatures by Mendelssohn.
Back to this piece, it is written in compound duple time and in comfortably tempo, which is common feature in barcarolle. Just like many vocal works it has 7-measure introduction, then lyrical melody joins in. I especially like the introduction. Here right hand figure (E-C#-C#-E-E) in the opening is borrowed from the opening of melody in m. 8 (E-C#-C’#-C’#). This figure further elaborates in accompaniment throughout the piece. It reminds me the gentle water flow.
Mendelssohn’s Gondellied is ABRSM grade 7 group B piece. It is also good to teach students singing tone, voicing (this piece consists quite a lot of double notes and chords in melody) and balance between hands through this piece.
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