Felix Mendelssohn – grandson of an eminent Jewish philosopher and son of a wealthy banker who converted to Christianity – came from a happy and privileged background. The family home in Berlin was a lively intellectual centre and Felix’s education covered classics, science, languages, law and several other subjects besides music.
From the age of 11 he composed fluently and prolifically: a huge quantity of piano and chamber music, five concertos, a few little operas and a dozen symphonies for strings preceded his official Symphony No. 1 of 1824. Then came the works that demonstrated not just precocious talent but real depth, among them the Octet for strings (1825) and, a year later, the Overture to A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
In his early twenties, beginning in 1829 with the first of his many visits to England, he spent three years travelling around Europe, meeting almost every cultural figure of note. His sensitivity to the spirit of the places he visited can be heard in such works as the ‘Italian’ and ‘Scottish’ Symphonies and the overture The Hebrides.
From 1833 to 1835 he worked mainly in Düsseldorf, and then from 1835 until his early death he was Municipal Music Director and conductor of the Gewandhaus Orchestra in Leipzig, where in 1843 he founded the influential Conservatory. He was outstanding as a pianist, organist, conductor and organiser, and tireless in promoting other composers’ music old and new – famously reviving Bach’s St Matthew Passion in 1829 and giving the posthumous first performance of Schubert’s Ninth Symphony in 1839.
Although he composed prolifically up to the end of his life in almost all forms (he never found the right opera libretto), he was rarely satisfied with his own facility, often keeping aside his major scores for a long period before presenting them to the public: the Violin Concerto (completed 1844) was six years in the making and the oratorio Elijah (completed 1846) nearly eight.
Mendelssohn was very conscious of his part in an unbroken tradition of German music deriving from Bach and the great classics of Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven, and in each of his major works searched for means of infusing this tradition with his own modern Romantic sensibility.
If his reputation suffered from the heavier performing styles of the later 19th century, which tended to sentimentalise his music, and also from the current of anti-Semitism that led to his music being banned by the Nazis, a modern perspective can appreciate his freshness and directness of expression, as well as the perfect ear for colour and texture, that place him among the greatest composers of any age.
Profile © Andrew Huth
- Clips (20)Latest ClipSymphony No 3 in A minor, Op 56 ('Scottish')
- TracksLast Played on BBC
- MoreSimilar Artists, Official Links
- Symphony No 3 in A minor, Op 56 ('Scottish')http://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/240x135/p02v3ks4.jpg2015-06-18T00:09:00ZMendelssohn - Symphony No 3 in A minor, Op 56 ('Scottish')http://www.bbc.co.uk/music/artists/0e85eb79-1c05-44ba-827c-7b259a3d941a?clipfocus=p02v3nhpSelected ClipSelected ClipAudio 38 mins
Symphony No 3 in A minor, Op 56 ('Scottish')
- String Octet in E flat major, Op 20http://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/240x135/p02v3ks4.jpg2015-06-16T00:58:00ZMendelssohn - String Octet in E flat major, Op 20http://www.bbc.co.uk/music/artists/0e85eb79-1c05-44ba-827c-7b259a3d941a?clipfocus=p02vc2ffSelected ClipSelected ClipAudio 32 mins
String Octet in E flat major, Op 20
- Mendelssohn: Piano Trio No 1http://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/240x135/p02sk8nf.jpg2015-05-30T13:29:00ZBuilding a Library compares available versions of Mendelssohn's Piano Trio No 1 in D minor.http://www.bbc.co.uk/music/artists/0e85eb79-1c05-44ba-827c-7b259a3d941a?clipfocus=p02sk8hhSelected ClipSelected ClipAudio 47 mins
Mendelssohn: Piano Trio No 1
- Mendelssohn: Violin Concertohttp://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/240x135/p02085t3.jpg2014-07-09T11:57:00ZIn this Proms Music Guide, Suzy Klein talks about Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto.http://www.bbc.co.uk/music/artists/0e85eb79-1c05-44ba-827c-7b259a3d941a?clipfocus=p022hcckSelected ClipSelected ClipAudio 3 mins
Mendelssohn: Violin Concerto
- Mendelssohn: Elijahhttp://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/240x135/p01vxhr9.jpg2014-07-09T11:48:00ZIn this Proms Music Guide, Tom Service talks about Mendelssohn's Elijah.http://www.bbc.co.uk/music/artists/0e85eb79-1c05-44ba-827c-7b259a3d941a?clipfocus=p022hc44Selected ClipSelected ClipAudio 4 mins
- Felix Mendelssohn: Last Seven Yearshttp://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/240x135/p020xwbr.jpg2014-06-13T12:36:00ZDonald Macleod explores Felix Mendelssohn's last seven years.http://www.bbc.co.uk/music/artists/0e85eb79-1c05-44ba-827c-7b259a3d941a?clipfocus=p020xwmfSelected ClipSelected ClipAudio 56 mins
Felix Mendelssohn: Last Seven Years
- Felix and Fanny Mendelssohnhttp://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/240x135/p020xtj9.jpg2014-06-13T12:19:00ZThe life and work of sibling prodigies Felix and Fanny Mendelssohn.http://www.bbc.co.uk/music/artists/0e85eb79-1c05-44ba-827c-7b259a3d941a?clipfocus=p020xtr5Selected ClipSelected ClipAudio 1 hour 5 mins
Felix and Fanny Mendelssohn
- Felix Mendelssohnhttp://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/240x135/p020xm5n.jpg2014-06-13T10:51:00ZDonald Macleod explores the life and work of German pianist, composer, organist and conductor Felix Mendelssohn.http://www.bbc.co.uk/music/artists/0e85eb79-1c05-44ba-827c-7b259a3d941a?clipfocus=p020xm5sSelected ClipSelected ClipAudio 47 mins
- Mendelssohn: Violin Concertohttp://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/240x135/p01sjxfv.jpg2014-06-04T10:31:00ZCatherine Bott explores Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto.http://www.bbc.co.uk/music/artists/0e85eb79-1c05-44ba-827c-7b259a3d941a?clipfocus=p020bh7ySelected ClipSelected ClipAudio 34 mins
Mendelssohn: Violin Concerto
- Mendelssohn: Piano Concerto No. 2http://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/240x135/p01sjy3p.jpg2014-06-04T10:23:00ZCharles Hazlewood and David Owen Norris explore Mendelssohn's second Piano Concerto.http://www.bbc.co.uk/music/artists/0e85eb79-1c05-44ba-827c-7b259a3d941a?clipfocus=p020bgppSelected ClipSelected ClipAudio 36 mins
Mendelssohn: Piano Concerto No. 2
- Mendelssohn: Overtureshttp://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/240x135/p01sk0xb.jpg2014-06-04T10:12:00ZStephen Johnson explores three of Mendelssohn's symphonic poems.http://www.bbc.co.uk/music/artists/0e85eb79-1c05-44ba-827c-7b259a3d941a?clipfocus=p020bg44Selected ClipSelected ClipAudio 56 mins
- The Romantic Hornhttp://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/240x135/p01sjyn3.jpg2014-06-04T09:48:00ZCharles Hazlewood considers the significance of the horn to early Romantic composers.http://www.bbc.co.uk/music/artists/0e85eb79-1c05-44ba-827c-7b259a3d941a?clipfocus=p020bf20Selected ClipSelected ClipAudio 1 hour
The Romantic Horn
- Mendelssohn: Symphony No. 4 'Italian'http://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/240x135/p01vl7s9.jpg2014-06-02T18:26:00ZCharles Hazelwood explores the ideas behind Mendelssohn's Italian symphony.http://www.bbc.co.uk/music/artists/0e85eb79-1c05-44ba-827c-7b259a3d941a?clipfocus=p0206zk5Selected ClipSelected ClipAudio 45 mins
Mendelssohn: Symphony No. 4 'Italian'
- Mendelssohn: Fingal's Cavehttp://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/240x135/p01w8cqr.jpg2014-03-26T12:24:00ZHoward Goodall and Suzy Klein discuss Fingal's Cave by Mendelssohn.http://www.bbc.co.uk/music/artists/0e85eb79-1c05-44ba-827c-7b259a3d941a?clipfocus=p01w7yknSelected ClipSelected ClipAudio 4 mins
Mendelssohn: Fingal's Cave
- Mendelssohn: Elijahhttp://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/240x135/p01w3sb1.jpg2014-03-23T17:40:00ZIan Burnside considers recordings of Mendelssohn's oratorio Elijah and recommends his favourite.http://www.bbc.co.uk/music/artists/0e85eb79-1c05-44ba-827c-7b259a3d941a?clipfocus=p01w3sb2Selected ClipSelected ClipAudio 41 mins
- Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847)http://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/240x135/p01txvd4.jpg2014-03-14T13:00:00ZDonald Macleod explores Mendelssohn's early years and the musical treasures they inspired.http://www.bbc.co.uk/music/artists/0e85eb79-1c05-44ba-827c-7b259a3d941a?clipfocus=p01txvprSelected ClipSelected ClipAudio 1 hour
Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847)
- Mendelssohn: Concerto for Piano No. 1 in G minor, Op 25 - Preview Cliphttp://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/240x135/p01g8lp9.jpg2013-12-17T15:47:00ZListen to an excerpt from Mendelssohn's Concerto for Piano No. 1 in G minor, Op 25.http://www.bbc.co.uk/music/artists/0e85eb79-1c05-44ba-827c-7b259a3d941a?clipfocus=p01nl1w8Selected ClipSelected ClipAudio 1 min
Mendelssohn: Concerto for Piano No. 1 in G minor, Op 25 - Preview Clip
- David Owen Norris works with Elizabeth Caddy on Mendelssohn’s Song Without Wordshttp://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/240x135/p02cl1ld.jpg2012-09-23T23:00:52ZDavid Owen Norris works with Elizabeth Caddy on Mendelssohn’s Song Without Words.http://www.bbc.co.uk/music/artists/0e85eb79-1c05-44ba-827c-7b259a3d941a?clipfocus=p00yytj9Selected ClipSelected ClipVideo 6 mins
David Owen Norris works with Elizabeth Caddy on Mendelssohn’s Song Without Words
- BBC Radio 3 Piano Masterclasshttp://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/240x135/p02cl1df.jpg2012-09-23T23:00:50ZBBC Radio 3 Piano Masterclass: ‘Sooner or Later – the Poetry of the Piano’.http://www.bbc.co.uk/music/artists/0e85eb79-1c05-44ba-827c-7b259a3d941a?clipfocus=p00yynkzSelected ClipSelected ClipVideo 28 mins
BBC Radio 3 Piano Masterclass
- David Owen Norris works with Sophie Lythgoe on Mendelssohn’s Rondo Capricciosohttp://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/240x135/p02cl1ls.jpg2012-09-23T23:00:36ZDavid Owen Norris works with Sophie Lythgoe on Mendelssohn’s Rondo Capriccioso.http://www.bbc.co.uk/music/artists/0e85eb79-1c05-44ba-827c-7b259a3d941a?clipfocus=p00yytv6Selected ClipSelected ClipVideo 5 mins
David Owen Norris works with Sophie Lythgoe on Mendelssohn’s Rondo Capriccioso
Clips from Similar Artists