Felix Mendelssohn, classical music composer

Felix Mendelssohn

Biography

Felix Mendelssohn (3 February 1809 – 4 November 1847) was a German composer, pianist, organist and conductor of the early Romantic period.

Felix Mendelssohn, along with Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Franz Schubert, was one of the great prodigies of classical music. Like them, Mendelssohn also died young, yet produced an astonishing number of works. Mendelssohn (born Jakob Ludwig Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy) was born on February 3, 1809 into a notable and wealthy Jewish family in Hamburg, Germany. His grandfather was Moses Mendelssohn, a prominent German philosopher of the Enlightenment; Abraham Mendelssohn, his father, was a successful banker, having founded Mendelssohn & Co. 

Mendelssohn's prodigious musical talents were recognized early, however, his parents were hesitant to publicize their sons abilities. It was not until it became clear that Mendelssohn wished to seriously pursue a career in music that his father relented. He began piano lessons at the age of six. In 1817, he began to take composition lessons from Carl Friedrich Zelter in Berlin, who became an important influence on Mendelssohn, and he often played with Zelter's orchestra at the Berlin Singakademie. His early compositions were often performed by a private orchestra in the home of his parents for their guests. Between the ages of 12 and 14, Mendelssohn composed twelve symphonies for strings only and at the age of 16 his first symphony for full orchestra.

Mendelssohn's aunt Sarah Levy, who quite possibly had recommended Zelter as Mendelssohn's teacher, was also to be a profound influence on him. Sarah, a talented keyboard player herself, had been a pupil W.F. Bach and a patron of C.P.E. Bach. She had collected numerous manuscripts by the Bach family, which she later bequeathed to the Singakademie. Sarah and Zelter, who was also an admirer of Bach, became a strong influence on Mendelssohn's conservative musical tastes. This no doubt led to Mendelssohn being at the forefront of what is known as the "Bach Revival."

In 1829, with the backing of Zelter and actor Eduard Devrient, Mendelssohn put together and conducted a performance of J.S. Bach's St. Matthew Passion. It was the first performance of the piece since Bach's death in 1750. The performance was a success and gained Mendelssohn widespread acclaim at the age of 20. After the performance, Mendelssohn also made one of his few references to his origins: "To think it took an actor and a Jew's son to revive the greatest Christian music for the world!"

Despite Mendelssohn's conservative tastes in music, he was nonetheless a leading figure of the early Romantic movement. The overture to his incidental music for A Midsummer Night's Dream is one of the earliest examples of the concert overture, a form that would become a favorite among many Romantic composers. His numerous Songs without Words were also a great contribution to the single movement, short piano pieces that predominated during the Romantic period.

Also in 1829, Mendelssohn made his first trip to England and would later make nine more visits during his lifetime. Mendelssohn gained a considerable following in British music circles, including Queen Victoria and her husband Prince Albert. He edited the first complete editions of Handel's oratorios and J.S. Bach's organ music for British publishers and two of his own compositions, namely the Scottish Symphony and Hebrides Overture, where inspired by Scotland's landscapes.

In 1835, Mendelssohn was named conductor of the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra. During the nine years he spent in Leipzig—once the domain of J.S. Bach himself—Mendelssohn sought to heighten the town's musical culture. As conductor of the Gewandhaus Orchestra, he revived interest in the works of Franz Schubert, as well as produced a series of "historical concerts." Alongside these concerts featuring music of the past, he also performed works by his contemporaries.

Mendelssohn's lasting mark on Leipzig was the creation of the Leipzig Conservatory in 1843, now known as the University of Music and Theatre Leipzig. He persuaded some of the leading musicians and scholars of his time to join him, including, Ignaz Moscheles, Robert Schumann, Joseph Joachim and Moritz Hauptmann. After his death, Moscheles succeeded Mendelssohn as head of the Conservatory.

On November 4, 1847 at the age of 38, less than six months after the death of his sister, Mendelssohn died from a series of strokes. His funeral was held at the Paulinerkirche in Leipzig and he was buried in the Trinity Cemetery in Berlin-Kreuzberg.


Composer Title Date Action
Felix Mendelssohn Songs without Words Op. 19, No. 1 (Sweet Remembrance) 05/01/2009 Play Add to playlist
Felix Mendelssohn Songs Without Words Op. 30, No. 4 (The Wanderer) 05/01/2009 Play Add to playlist
Felix Mendelssohn Songs Without Words Op. 30, No. 1 (Contemplation) 05/01/2009 Play Add to playlist
Felix Mendelssohn Three Songs Without Words 09/11/2009 Play Add to playlist
Felix Mendelssohn Allegro Brillant, Op. 92 11/24/2009 Play Add to playlist
Felix Mendelssohn Violin Sonata In F Major (without Op. No.) 03/16/2010 Play Add to playlist
Felix Mendelssohn Wedding March with Variations (arr. by Vladimir Horowitz) 03/17/2011 Play Add to playlist
Felix Mendelssohn A Midsummer Night's Dream 01/15/2009 Play Add to playlist
Felix Mendelssohn Rondo Capriccioso, Op. 14 01/20/2009 Play Add to playlist
Felix Mendelssohn Rondo Capriccioso, Op. 14 04/12/2011 Play Add to playlist
Felix Mendelssohn Scherzo from "A Midsummer Night's Dream" 06/16/2009 Play Add to playlist
Felix Mendelssohn Overture from "A Midsummer Night's Dream" 06/16/2009 Play Add to playlist
Felix Mendelssohn String Quartet in E Minor, Op. 44 No. 2 03/30/2009 Play Add to playlist
Felix Mendelssohn Wedding March from "A Midsummer Night's Dream" 06/16/2009 Play Add to playlist
Felix Mendelssohn Fantasy in f-sharp minor, Op.28 01/14/2009 Play Add to playlist
Felix Mendelssohn Fantasy in f-sharp minor, Op. 28 (Scottish Sonata) 03/11/2010 Play Add to playlist
Felix Mendelssohn Lift Thine Eyes 09/10/2009 Play Add to playlist
Felix Mendelssohn Songs Without Words in D Major, Op. 109 01/16/2011 Play Add to playlist
Felix Mendelssohn Song without Words No. 1 in E-flat Major, Opus 67 01/23/2009 Play Add to playlist
Felix Mendelssohn Song without Words No. 2 in f-sharp minor, Opus 67 01/21/2009 Play Add to playlist
Felix Mendelssohn Song without Words No. 6 in E Major, Opus 67 01/19/2009 Play Add to playlist
Felix Mendelssohn Piano Trio No. 2 in c minor, Op. 66 10/17/2011 Play Add to playlist
Felix Mendelssohn Piano Trio No. 1 in D Minor, Op. 49 11/17/2011 Play Add to playlist
Felix Mendelssohn Violin Concerto in E minor, Op. 64 (I mov.) 11/19/2011 Play Add to playlist
Felix Mendelssohn Cello Sonata No. 2 in D major, Op. 58 12/02/2011 Play Add to playlist
Felix Mendelssohn Song without Words, Op.67 01/06/2012 Play
Felix Mendelssohn From A Midsummer Night’s Dream 02/09/2012 Play Add to playlist
Felix Mendelssohn Spinning Song 07/18/2012 Play Add to playlist
Felix Mendelssohn Octet for Strings in E-flat Major, Op. 20 02/13/2012 Play Add to playlist
Felix Mendelssohn Variations sérieuses Op. 54 11/30/2011 Play Add to playlist
Felix Mendelssohn String Quintet No. 2 in B-Flat Major, Op. 87 11/20/2012 Play Add to playlist
Felix Mendelssohn String Quartet No. 2 in A Minor, Op. 13 11/17/2011 Play Add to playlist
Felix Mendelssohn Piano Concerto in g minor op. 25 (Molto allegro e con fuoco) 01/28/2013 Play
Felix Mendelssohn Rondo capriccioso, in E Major, Op. 14 10/20/2009 Play Add to playlist
Felix Mendelssohn Der Mond 09/18/2013 Play Add to playlist
Felix Mendelssohn Frühlingslied 09/18/2013 Play Add to playlist
Felix Mendelssohn Song without Words, Op. 109 11/14/2013 Play Add to playlist
Felix Mendelssohn Piano Quartet No. 1 in C minor, Op. 1 02/02/2014 Play Add to playlist
Felix Mendelssohn Hear my Prayer 03/09/2014 Play Add to playlist
Felix Mendelssohn Variations sérieuses, Op. 54 09/03/2014 Play Add to playlist
Felix Mendelssohn String Quintet No. 2 in B-Flat Major, Op. 87 09/17/2014 Play Add to playlist