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Mendelssohn's muse Cecile

Donald Macleod explores the impact of marriage upon Mendelssohn's life and music.

Donald Macleod explores the impact of marriage upon Mendelssohn’s life and music

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.

During the 1830s, pressure grew on Mendelssohn from his friends and family to find a wife. The lucky girl was Cecile Sophie Charlotte Jeanrenaud, who Mendelssohn first met in 1836 in Frankfurt. Theirs was a blest relationship which would inspire and influence many of his works, including his love duet for solo piano from his Sechs Lieder ohne Worte, or the String Quartet in E minor. As Mendelssohn’s professional life became increasingly busy, including lots of travel both in Germany and abroad, his wife Cecile provided a domestic backdrop which supported her husband in his work. Some went on to criticise Mendelssohn, attributing a loss of artistic integrity to his increased domestic happiness. With Mendelssohn's early death, Cecille was noted to say, life lasts so long, how shall I live it alone?

Sechs Lieder ohne Worte Op 38 No 6 (Duetto: Andante)
Howard Shelley, piano

Ich wollt’ meine Lieb’ ergosse sich, Op 63 No 1
Herbstlied, Op 63 No 4
Sophie Daneman, soprano
Nathan Berg, baritone
Eugene Asti, piano

Prelude and Fugue in C minor, Op 37 No 1
Stefan Johannes Bleicher, organ

Concerto in E minor for violin and orchestra, Op 64
Xue Wei, violin
London Philharmonic Orchestra
Ivor Bolton, conductor

String Quartet in E minor, Op 44 No 2 (Presto agitato)
Emerson String Quartet

Produced by Luke Whitlock, for BBC Wales

59 minutes

On radio

Next Friday 12:00

Music Played

  • Felix Mendelssohn

    Duetto: Andante (Lieder ohne Worte, Op 38 No 6)

    Performer: Howard Shelley.
    • Hyperion: CDA68059.
    • Hyperion.
    • 22.
  • Felix Mendelssohn

    Ich wollt' mein Lieb ergosse sich, Op 63 No 1

    Performer: Eugene Asti. Singer: Sophie Daneman. Singer: Nathan Berg.
    • Hyperion: CDA66906.
    • Hyperion.
    • 1.
  • Felix Mendelssohn

    Herbstlied, Op 63 No 4

    Performer: Eugene Asti. Singer: Sophie Daneman. Singer: Nathan Berg.
    • Hyperion: CDA66906.
    • Hyperion.
    • 1.
  • Felix Mendelssohn

    Prelude and Fugue in C minor, Op 37 No 1

    Performer: Stefan Johannes Bleicher.
    • ARTE NOVA : 74321-711792.
    • ARTE NOVA.
    • 14.
  • Felix Mendelssohn

    Violin Concerto in E minor, Op 64

    Performer: Kyung-wha Chung. Orchestra: Orchestre symphonique de Montréal. Conductor: Charles Dutoit.
    • Decca 4214502.
    • Decca.
    • 3.
  • Felix Mendelssohn

    String Quartet No 4 in E minor, Op 44 No 2 (Presto agitato)

    Ensemble: Emerson String Quartet.
    • Deutsche Grammophon 4775370.
    • Deutsche Grammophon.
    • 4.

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