Felix Mendelssohn-Bartoldy

Far from the troubled, coarse libertine that has become an archetype of the Romantic composer, Felix Mendelssohn was something of an anomaly among his contemporaries. His own situation one largely of domestic tranquility and unhindered career fulfillment stands in stark contrast to the personal Sturm und Drang familiar to his peers. Mendelssohn was the only musical prodigy of the nineteenth century whose stature could rival that of Mozart. Still, his parents resisted any entrepreneurial impulses and spared young Felix the strange, grueling lifestyle that was the lot of many child prodigies. He and his sister Fanny were given piano lessons, and he also studied violin, and both joined the Berlin Singakademie. Carl Friedrich Zelter, director of the Singakademie, became Mendelssohn's first composition instructor. Even in his youth, Mendelssohn moved with natural grace among the circles of influence in society, politics, literature, and art. Although he did spend some time at the University of Berlin, most of his education was received through friendships and travel. Mendelssohn's advocacy was the single most important factor in the revival of Bach's vocal music in the nineteenth century, most famously realized in the 1829 performance of the St. Matthew Passion at the Berlin Singakadamie. He did some touring as a pianist with Ignaz Moscheles, then took the position as music director in Dusseldorf from 1833 to 1835, which involved conducting both the choral and orchestral societies, preparing music for church services and later, becoming intendant for the new theatre. Tension with the theater owner caused him to resign some of his duties, and he began looking for a new post. In 1835, Mendelssohn became municipal music director in Leipzig, where he also would conduct the Gewandhaus Orchestra. He would raise the level of the still-thriving ensemble to a new standard of excellence. In 1838, he married Cécile Jeanrenaud, enjoying an idyllic marriage and family life that was quite unlike the stormy romantic entanglements which profoundly affected such composers as Berlioz, Chopin, and Liszt. He was in demand as a conductor, spent some time as royal composer and music director in Berlin, but remained committed to musical life in Leipzig. He was even able to establish a new conservatory in the city, which is still a well-respected institution.

Mendelssohn was a true Renaissance man. A talented visual artist, he was a refined connoisseur of literature and philosophy. While Mendelssohn's name rarely arises in discussions of the nineteenth century vanguard, the intrinsic importance of his music is undeniable. A distinct personality emerges at once in its exceptional formal sophistication, its singular melodic sense, and its colorful, masterful deployment of the instrumental forces at hand. A true apotheosis of life, Mendelssohn's music absolutely overflows with energy, ebullience, drama, and invention, as evidenced in his most enduring works: the incidental music to A Midsummer Night's Dream (1826-1842); the Hebrides Overture (1830); the Songs Without Words (1830-1845); the Symphonies No. 3 (1841-1842) and No. 4 (1833); and the Violin Concerto in E minor (1844). While the sunny disposition of so many of Mendelssohn's works has led some to view the composer as possessing great talent but little depth, his religious compositions particularly the great oratorios Paulus (1836) and Elijah (1846) reflect the complexity and deeply spiritual basis of his personality.

Year / Artwork Title Importance Medium
1824 Symphony No 1 in C minor Opus 11 3.00 stars 4 LP
Comments:
New Philharmonia Orchestra cond. Wolfgang Sawallisch
1824 Piano Sextet Opus 110 3.00 stars DVD
Comments:
Solists
Yuja Wang - Piano
1826-1827 Midsummer night's dream Opus 21 4.00 stars 6 CD
Comments:
Piano four hands
Includes the weddingmusic

Christina Marton - Piano
Martha Argerich - Piano

1830 The Hebrides Opus 30 4.00 stars DVD-R
Comments:
London Symphony Orchestra cond. John Eliot Gardiner

Recorded from MEZZO TV

1839 Piamo Trio No 1 Opus 49 4.00 stars 8 CD
Comments:

Renaud Capucon - Violin
Gautier Capucon - Cello
Martha Argerich - Piano

1840 Symphony No 2 in B flat Major Opus 52 "Hymn of Praise" 3.00 stars 4 LP
Comments:
New Philharmonia Orchestra cond. Wolfgang Sawallisch
1841 Variations sérieuses Opus 54 3.00 stars LP
Comments:
17 variations on a theme

Alicia de Larrochia - Harpsichord

1829-1842 Symphony No 3 A Minor Opus 56 "Scottish" 4.00 stars 4 LP
Comments:
New Philharmonia Orchestra cond. Wolfgang Sawallisch
1829-1842 Symphony No 3 A Minor Opus 56 "Scottish" 4.00 stars DVD
Comments:
Verbier Orchestra cond. Kurt Masur
1833 Symphony No 4 in A Major Opus 90 "Italian" 4.00 stars 4 LP
Comments:
New Philharmonia Orchestra cond. Wolfgang Sawallisch
1830 (pub. 1868) Symphony No 5 in D Major / D Minor Opus 107 "Reformation Symphony) 4.00 stars 4 LP
Comments:
New Philharmonia Orchestra cond. Wolfgang Sawallisch
1831 Piano Concerto No 1 4.50 stars DVD
Comments:
Yuja Wang - Piano
Verbier Orchestra cond. Kurt Masur
1838 Ouverture in C Minor "Ruy Blas" 4.00 stars 4 LP
Comments:
New Philharmonia Orchestra cond. Wolfgang Sawallisch
1842 Midsummer's Night Dream - Complete 4.50 stars LP
Comments:
Lilian Watson - Soprano
Delia Wallis - Mezzo Soprano
London Symphony Orchestra cond. Andre Previn
1844 Violin Concerto in E Minor Opus 64 4.00 stars LP
Comments:
Itzhak Perlman - Violin
London Symphony Orchestra cond. Andre Previn