Felix Mendelssohn Biography (BBC)
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
Felix Mendelssohn Biography (Wikipedia)
Jakob Ludwig Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy (3 February 1809 – 4 November 1847 (aged 38)), born and widely known as Felix Mendelssohn, was a German composer, pianist, organist and conductor of the early Romantic period.
A grandson of the philosopher Moses Mendelssohn, Felix Mendelssohn was born into a prominent Jewish family. He was brought up without religion until the age of seven, when he was baptised as a Reformed Christian. Mendelssohn was recognised early as a musical prodigy, but his parents were cautious and did not seek to capitalise on his talent.
Mendelssohn enjoyed early success in Germany, where he also revived interest in the music of Johann Sebastian Bach, and in his travels throughout Europe. He was particularly well received in Britain as a composer, conductor and soloist, and his ten visits there – during which many of his major works were premiered – form an important part of his adult career. His essentially conservative musical tastes, however, set him apart from many of his more adventurous musical contemporaries such as Franz Liszt, Richard Wagner, Charles-Valentin Alkan and Hector Berlioz. The Leipzig Conservatoire (now the University of Music and Theatre Leipzig), which he founded, became a bastion of this anti-radical outlook.
- Benjamin Grosvenor plays Mendelssohn live on In Tunehttps://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/240x135/p03s8b2w.jpghttps://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/240x135/p03s8b2w.jpg2016-04-26T10:47:00.000ZBenjamin Grosvenor plays Mendelssohn's Prelude and Fugue in F minor live on In Tune.http://www.bbc.co.uk/music/audiovideo/popular/p03s8jbf
Benjamin Grosvenor plays Mendelssohn live on In Tune
- Mendelssohn: A Midsummer Night’s Dream (extract)https://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/240x135/p03nx19t.jpghttps://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/240x135/p03nx19t.jpg2016-04-19T11:00:00.000ZPreview of music performed at the BBC Proms.http://www.bbc.co.uk/music/audiovideo/popular/p03nx1ml
Mendelssohn: A Midsummer Night’s Dream (extract)
- Mendelssohn: Symphony No. 4 in A major, ‘Italian’ (extract)https://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/240x135/p03nndtr.jpghttps://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/240x135/p03nndtr.jpg2016-04-17T11:00:00.000ZPreview of music performed at the BBC Promshttp://www.bbc.co.uk/music/audiovideo/popular/p03np7c8
Mendelssohn: Symphony No. 4 in A major, ‘Italian’ (extract)
- Symphony No.3 in A minor Op 56 (Scottish)https://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/240x135/p02v3ks4.jpghttps://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/240x135/p02v3ks4.jpg2015-11-05T14:46:00.000ZMendelssohn, Felix [1809-1847] Symphony No.3 in A minor Op 56 (Scottish)http://www.bbc.co.uk/music/audiovideo/popular/p0376j51
Symphony No.3 in A minor Op 56 (Scottish)
- Felix Mendelssohn: Last Seven Yearshttps://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/240x135/p020xwbr.jpghttps://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/240x135/p020xwbr.jpg2014-06-13T12:36:00.000ZDonald Macleod explores Felix Mendelssohn's last seven years.http://www.bbc.co.uk/music/audiovideo/popular/p020xwmf
Felix Mendelssohn: Last Seven Years
- Felix and Fanny Mendelssohnhttps://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/240x135/p020xtj9.jpghttps://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/240x135/p020xtj9.jpg2014-06-13T12:19:00.000ZThe life and work of sibling prodigies Felix and Fanny Mendelssohn.http://www.bbc.co.uk/music/audiovideo/popular/p020xtr5
Felix and Fanny Mendelssohn
- Felix Mendelssohnhttps://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/240x135/p020xm5n.jpghttps://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/240x135/p020xm5n.jpg2014-06-13T10:51:00.000ZDonald Macleod explores the life and work of German pianist, composer, organist and conductor Felix Mendelssohn.http://www.bbc.co.uk/music/audiovideo/popular/p020xm5s
- Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847)https://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/240x135/p01txvd4.jpghttps://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/240x135/p01txvd4.jpg2014-03-14T13:00:00.000ZDonald Macleod explores Mendelssohn's early years and the musical treasures they inspired.http://www.bbc.co.uk/music/audiovideo/popular/p01txvpr
Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847)
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