Felix Mendelssohn

Classical Music / Composer Dateline: February 3

Felix Mendelssohn (Feb. 3, 1809-Nov. 4, 1847)


Romantic Composer, Pianist and Conductor

(Jakob Ludwig) Felix Mendelssohn (Bartholdy), widely known as Felix Mendelssohn, was a German composer, pianist, organist and conductor of the early Romantic period. His music has the charm of classical music. Among his best-known works (I'm trying hard not to be biased when profiling a loved composer)  are A Midsummer Night's Dream, the Fingal's Cave overture, the song "On Wings of Song" (German: "Auf Fl├╝geln des Gesanges"), and five symphonies, which include the Reformation, the Italian, and the Scottish.

A grandson of the philosopher Moses Mendelssohn, Felix Mendelssohn was born into a prominent Jewish family. He was close to his older sister Fanny Mendelssohn, also a composer, five years his senior. Until the age of seven, he was brought up without religion, then baptised as a Reformed Christian. Early on, he was recognised as a musical prodigy but his parents did not seek to capitalise on his talent.
    

There have been numerous articles written about Felix Mendelssohn. This post is a remembrance to celebrate his birthday, complimenting his life, music and musical style, and his influence in the Romantic Era.

Famous for his engaging romantic music, Mendelssohn's compositions have the beauty of classical music applied to romantic themes. Unlike many of his contemporaries or predecessors, he based most of his works on personal experiences rather than from inspired literature or drawn out imagination.


Mendelssohn's Song without Words, Op. 19,1, (Lieder ohne Worte) performed by Richter. The quality of recording may not do justice to Richter's playing but it's still beautiful.


Mendelssohn also played the organ and composed for it from the age of 11 until his death. His primary organ works are the Three Preludes and Fugues, Op. 37 (1837) and the Six Sonatas, Op. 65 (1845). The death of his sister Fanny in the spring of 1847 depressed him; he went to Switzerland too ill to compose anything, returning to Leipzig in September completely exhausted. He died two months later.

Mendelssohn's music has the beauty and charm of classical music in terms of Romantic and descriptive tones, highly valued fusion of that lyrical impulse of romance, with a managed sense of form. Many of his best works were written and inspired whilst in his twenties, even teens. Despite his frail health, his famous late works such as his violin concerto and oratorio Elijah find him in his superb musical execution... always inspired.


Links to some of Mendelssohn's Works:
A Midsummer Night's Dream
Hebrides Overture ("Fingal Caves")
On Wings of Songs
Symphony No. 2 'Lobgesang' ('Hymn of Praise'). The Symphony No. 2 in B flat major, op. 52, called the "Lobgesang" (or "Hymn of Praise") Symphony. It was written by Mendelssohn  in 1840 to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the invention of printing, along with the less-known Festgesang "Gutenberg Cantata". The composer's description of the work was 'A Symphony-Cantata on Words of the Holy Bible, for Soloists, Chorus and Orchestra'. Structurally, it consists of three purely orchestral movements followed by 11 movements for chorus and/or soloists and orchestra, and lasts approximately 65--70 minutes in total. (Source: Wikipedia)
Symphony No. 3 'Scottish'
Symphony No. 4 'Italian'
Symphony No. 5 'Reformation'. (Note: The designation of this symphony is quite misleading, since it's in fact the second of Mendelssohn's symphonies, he started at the end of 1929, and completed in 1830. This work was intended for the celebration in 1930 of the 300th anniversary of the Augsburg Confession (key tenets of the Lutheran faith), but was only performed in 1832. The finale draws on the famous Martin Luther hymn, "A Mighty Fortress is our God.")    


Video credit:
Mendelssohn's Song Without Words, Op.19. YouTube, uploaded by SviatoslavRichterRec. Accessed 3 Feb 2014.

Image Credit:
Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy. en.wikipedia.org Public Domain. Accessed Feb 3, 2016.


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