Main content
Sorry, this episode is not currently available

Mendelssohn is inspired by Italy

Donald Macleod accompanies Mendelssohn on his travels through Italy.

Donald Macleod journeys with Mendelssohn through his travels in Italy.

In Composer of the Week, Donald Macleod journeys through the life of Felix Mendelssohn, exploring in particular a number of influences upon the composer’s works. Mendelssohn was a leading figure of German music in his day, and became something of an international celebrity. He was at the very forefront of music making during the 1830s and 1840s, as a composer, conductor, pianist and organist. He began as a highly gifted and versatile prodigy, and rose to become one of Germany’s first rank composers of the early romantic period. He composed music in many genres including concertos, oratorios, symphonies, songs and chamber music. Amongst some of his most famous works, are the highly evocative and dramatic overture to A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and his mature and richly romantic Violin Concerto.

Mendelssohn composed a number of works whilst on his Grand Tour of Italy. At the start of the 1830s he visited many of the iconic Italian destinations such as Venice, Florence, Rome, Naples and Milan. This visit to Italy can be heard in a number of his works from the time, including his song of a Venetian Gondolier for solo piano, to his Italian Symphony. Yet, although Mendelssohn found the art, architecture and landscape of Italy to be hugely inspiring, he didn’t rate the quality of music making there. During Holy Week in Rome he enjoyed listening to the Papal choir, but by and large he found musical standards in Italy very low at the time. On one occasion Mendelssohn fled from a church to escape the lamentable playing of the organist.

Lieder ohne Worte, Op 19B No 6 (Venetianisches Gondellied)
Howard Shelley, piano

Psalm 115 Non nobis Domine, Op 31
Annemarie Kremer, soprano
Daniel Sans, tenor
Manfred Bittner, bass
Chamber Choir of Europe
Wurttembergische Philharmonie Reutlingen
Nicol Matt, conductor

Nachspiel in D major
Olivier Vernet, organ

Symphony No 4 in A major, Op 90 (Italian)
Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra
John Elliot Gardiner, conductor

Produced by Luke Whitlock, for BBC Wales

59 minutes

Music Played

  • Felix Mendelssohn

    Venetianisches Gondellied (Lieder ohne Worte, Op 19b No 6)

    Performer: Howard Shelley.
    • HYPERION : CDA-67935.
    • 18.
  • Felix Mendelssohn

    Psalm 115 (Non nobis, Domine), Op 31

    Singer: Annemarie Kremer. Singer: Daniel Sans. Singer: Manfred Bittner. Choir: Chamber Choir of Europe. Orchestra: Württembergische Philharmonie Reutlingen. Conductor: Nicol Matt.
    • Brilliant 99997/2.
    • Brilliant.
    • 5.
  • Felix Mendelssohn

    Nachspiel in D major

    Performer: Olivier Vernet.
    • Ligia LIDI0104180-07.
    • Ligia.
    • 6.
  • Felix Mendelssohn

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

    Orchestra: Vienna Philharmonic. Conductor: Sir John Eliot Gardiner.
    • DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON : dg-4591562.
    • 1.


Composers A to Z

Composers A to Z

Visit the extensive audio archive of Radio 3 programmes about Composers and their works.

Who knew? Five eye-opening stories from Composer of the Week

Who knew? Five eye-opening stories from Composer of the Week

The production team reflects on 5 of Donald Macleod’s best stories from the last 20 years

A man out of time – why Parry's music and ideas were at odds with his image...

A man out of time – why Parry's music and ideas were at odds with his image...

The composer of Jerusalem was very far from the conservative figure his image suggests.

Five reasons why we love Parry's Jerusalem

Five reasons why we love Parry's Jerusalem

What is the strange power of Jerusalem which makes strong men weep?

Composer Help Page

Composer Help Page

Find resources and contacts for composers from within the classical music industry.