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In Mendelssohn's 6 Kinderstücke Op. 72 No. 2 "Andante Sostenuto" (See the first 6 bars in the image below) there is the indication to play "sempre legato" and there are slurs as well.

Mendelssohn op. 72, no. 2, mm. 1–6

Questions:

  1. Where does the "sempre legato" start? From the 3rd bar or from the 2nd?

  2. Since the slurs imply: play legato, is this redundant with the "sempre legato"? If not, how should I play the slurs?

The edition I am looking at here is the RCM Level 8 List C - 2015 Piano Celebration Series.

Slurs are present in the score even after the 3rd bar for LH and RH.

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Notice that the slurs go away in bar 3. That's the purpose of the sempre legato. It's saying "keep playing this as in the first two measures", rather than writing slurs through the entire score.

As the piece progresses, the left-hand is also intended to be sempre legato, except in the couple of places where notes are separated by rests.

The remaining slur marks are primarily phrase markings. Rather than indicating articulation, a phrase marking is a guide to shaping the musical interpretation. The Q&A Understanding and distinguishing piano slurs and phrases discusses the distinctions between slurs and phrase marks.

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  • Your answer prompted me to look for other editions, in the one shown above there are slurs from bar 4 till the end, both for LH and RH. In another, found on IMSLP, the LH does not have slurs until the last bar.
    – Qvantvm
    Sep 20 at 21:58
  • @Qvantvm I can't tell if that's a question or a statement. Either way, links or more specific references to the editions you're referring to would be helpful. If there's something more you need from my answer, please let me know.
    – Aaron
    Sep 20 at 22:10
  • I added the edition I was referring to. Based on your answer and what I found on other editions I think the "sempre legato" is referring to the LH only. Unless there is another interpretation.
    – Qvantvm
    Sep 20 at 22:42
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    @Qvantvm this answer is correct; I recommend accepting it. This sort of thing is common. More generally, you might see simile, which means "you get the idea; keep doing it like this even though we're going to stop writing the articulation marks everywhere." In this case, rather than simile, the editor has chosen a message that is consistent with the meaning of the specific mark being omitted. In other cases you might see sempre staccato or sempre marcato, for example. Doing it this way reduces visual clutter. If the composer's manuscript survives, have a look at that.
    – phoog
    Sep 21 at 7:19
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    @LaurencePayne but the pedal is engaged continually. (One wonders, therefore, whether the pedal marking is Mendelssohn's; why expend more time and effort writing short notes and rests when the dampers are off?)
    – phoog
    Sep 21 at 7:24

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