Motive and motif: Méhul before 1791

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Examines a specifically French set of responses to the classical processes of symphonic and motivic development typical of the Viennese symphonies that, through Haydn's works, Paris had come to know before the Revolution. Méhul's motivic procedures in piano sonatas of 1788 are demonstrated, and then the way that such concerns were transferred to the orchestra in opera. The article starts with evidence from 1810 that audiences had become attuned to Méhul's employment of the orchestra as a 'main character'. In 1790 Méhul's break-through came in 'Euphrosine', where the duet 'Gardez-vous de la jalousie' uses and develops a motif earlier identified with Coradin's jealousy. Close analysis suggests five different modes of meaning attaching to these procedures.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)362-69
Number of pages8
JournalMusic and Letters
Publication statusPublished - 1976


  • Paris, eighteenth century, opera, musical motif, development, Méhul

Cite this