Monday, February 3, 2014


Jakob Ludwig Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy
 ( 3 February 1809 – 4 November 1847)

During his short life, this German musical prodigy revived the music of Bach, innovated the use of a baton while conducting, and founded the oldest school of music in Germany.  Born to a wealthy Jewish family in Hamburg, his family later converted to Christianity to evade the discriminatory taxes that Jews suffered at the time, changing their name to Mendelssohn-Bartholdy.  Like his older sister Fanny, Felix showed an early affinity for music.  He began studying the piano at the age of six and was performing and composing by the age of nine.  When the family relocated to Berlin, they hosted gatherings where Felix's works were performed by a private orchestra.  By the age of fourteen, he had written at least a dozen string symphonies for such occasions.  In 1829, he arranged and conducted a performance of Johann Sebastian Bach's St Matthew Passion leading to a renewed appreciation for the forgotten composer.  Felix travelled all over Europe, drawing inspiration from local culture and musicians.  In 1835, he took a position as conductor of  the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra which included editorship of the highly regarded musical journal Allgemeine musikalische Zeitung.  It was in Leipzig that he founded the  Conservatory of Music, which now bears his name:   Hochschule für Musik und Theater "Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy".   Mendelssohn developed a devoted following in England during his ten visits, meeting  Queen Victoria and her musical husband Prince Albert on more than one occasion.  The stress of his extensive touring caused his health to suffer, and, after the death of his beloved sister Fanny, Felix died in Leipzig after a series of strokes related to apoplexy.  He has become one of the most popular of the Romantic composers.  

Mendelssohn considered:    "People often complain that music is too ambiguous, that what they should think when they hear it is so unclear, whereas everyone understands words. With me, it is exactly the opposite, and not only with regard to an entire speech but also with individual words...Though everything else may appear shallow and repulsive, even the smallest task in music is so absorbing, and carries us so far away from town, country, earth, and all worldly things, that it is truly a blessed gift of God."

 In 1826, near the start of his career, Mendelssohn wrote a concert overture (Op. 21) for William Shakespeare's play, 'A Midsummer Night's Dream'. In 1842, only a few years before his death, he wrote incidental music (Op. 61) for a new production of the play, adding to the existing Overture. The incidental music includes the world-famous Wedding March. The German title reads Ein Sommernachtstraum.  Queen Victoria chose Mendelssohn’s ‘Wedding March’ for her daughter’s wedding. It remains a popular choice for weddings to this day, normally played when the bride and groom walk out of church.

His Overture for 'A Midsummer Night's Dream' was written when he was only seventeen.

Symphony No. 4 in A major, Op. 90 (the Italian Symphony)

The Symphony No. 3 in A minor, Op. 56 (the Scottish Symphony)

The Hebrides (German: Die Hebriden), Op. 26 AKA Fingal's Cave (Die Fingalshöhle)

 Violin Concerto in E minor, Op. 64

Piano Concerto No. 1 in G minor, Op. 25

Piano Concerto No. 2 in d minor Op. 40

 Elijah Oratorio

St Paul Oratorio

His string Octet in E-flat major, Op. 20 was written at the tender age of sixteen.

Songs Without Words (Lieder ohne Worte) is a series of short lyrical piano pieces, each consisting of six "songs" (Lieder), written  between 1829 and 1845 at various points throughout Mendelssohn's life, and were published separately.

Book 1, Op. 19b (1829-1830)
00:00:00 No. 1 in E major
00:04:38 No. 2 in A minor
00:06:50 No. 3 in A major
00:09:16 No. 4 in A major
00:11:32 No. 5 in F-sharp minor
00:14:14 No. 6 in G minor

Book 2, Op. 30 (1833-1834)
00:16:49 No. 1 in E-flat major
00:21:32 No. 2 in B-flat minor
00:23:48 No. 3 in E major
00:26:01 No. 4 in B minor
00:28:56 No. 5 in D major
00:31:20 No. 6 in F-sharp minor 

Book 3, Op. 38 (1836-1837)
00:35:05 No. 1 in E-flat major
00:37:06 No. 2 in C minor
00:38:51 No. 3 in E major
00:41:05 No. 4 in A major
00:43:27 No. 5 in A minor
00:45:54 No. 6 in A-flat major

Book 4, Op. 53 (1839-1841)
00:50:07 No. 1 in A-flat major
00:53:46 No. 2 in E-flat major
00:55:53 No. 3 in G minor
00:58:40 No. 4 in F major
01:01:40 No. 5 in A minor 
01:04:40 No. 6 in A major

Book 5, Op. 62 (1842-1844)
01:07:21 No. 1 in G major
01:10:24 No. 2 in B-flat major
01:12:21 No. 3 in E minor 
01:16:11 No. 4 in G major
01:17:37 No. 5 in A minor
01:20:56 No. 6 in A major

Book 6, Op. 67 (1843-1845)
01:23:14 No. 1 in E-flat major
01:26:17 No. 2 in F-sharp minor
01:28:36 No. 3 in B-flat major
01:31:10 No. 4 in C major 
01:33:05 No. 5 in B minor
01:35:06 No. 6 in E major

Book 7, Op. 85 (1834-1845)
01:37:19 No. 1 in F major
01:40:10 No. 2 in A minor
01:41:07 No. 3 in E-flat major
01:43:31 No. 4 in D major
01:47:14 No. 5 in A major
01:49:15 No. 6 in B-flat major

Book 8, Op. 102 (1842-1845)
01:51:35 No. 1 in E minor
01:54:32 No. 2 in D major
01:56:46 No. 3 in C major
01:58:17 No. 4 in G minor
02:00:30 No. 5 in A major
02:01:38 No. 6 in C major

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