Felix Mendelssohn's The Hebrides Overture

Classical Music Milestone: May 14, 1832

Mendelssohn "Fingal's Cave" Premieres

A year before Felix Mendelssohn premiered his "Italian"  Symphony 4, he conducted in London the first performance of his Hebrides Overture (German for Die Hebriden), referred to as "Fingal's Cave" (die Fingalshöhle.) Performances of the overture typically run between 10½ and 11 minutes.

The Hebrides Overture (German: Die Hebriden), Op. 26, is a concert overture that Mendelssohn composed in 1839. It was inspired by a cavern known as Fingal's Cave on Staffa, an island in the Hebrides located off the west coast of Scotland. As is common with Romantic era pieces, this is not an overture in the sense that it precedes a play or opera. The piece is a stand-alone musical selection, a concert overture, which has now become part of standard orchestral repertoire.

The overture consists of two primary themes and is played by the violas, cellos, and bassoons... signifying feelings of loneliness and solitude. The second theme depicts movement at sea with the rolling of waves. It is scored for 2 flutes, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, 2 horns, 2 trumpets, timpani and strings.

His work was completed on December 16, 1830 and was originally entitled Die einsame Insel (The Lonely Island), but Mendelssohn revised the score, completing it by June 20, 1832, retitling it Die Hebriden, or The Hebrides. Despite this, the title of Fingal's Cave was retained: on the orchestral parts he labelled the music The Hebrides, but on the score the great composer labelled the music Fingal's Cave.

The piece was dedicated to then Crown Prince of Prussia, now King Frederick William IV of Prussia.

Trivia: Incidentally, Mendelssohn's beloved sister, Fanny, also died the same day on May 14 (1847), 15 years later.

Links to some Mendelssohn's works:

1. A Midsummer Night's Dream 
2. Hebrides Overture ("Fingal's Cave")
3. On Wings of Song
4. Symphony No. 3 'Scottish'
5. Symphony No. 4 'Italian'

Video Credit:

The Hebrides Overture (Fingal's Cave') Op. 26. YouTube, uploaded by regencyjazz. Accessed February 3, 2018. 

  1. Geoff Kuenning. "Program Notes: Mendelssohn: "Hebrides" Overture". Accessed May 16, 2011.
  2. "Overture to "Fingal's Cave""Music With Ease.  Accessed May 16, 2011.
  3. Wikipedia

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