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Felix Mendelssohn

Felix Mendelssohn

Born: 1809 Died: 1847

Mendelssohn was the son of a banker, Abraham, who was himself the son of the famous Jewish philosopher, Moses Mendelssohn, and of Lea Salomon, a member od the Itzig family. Abraham sought to renounce the Jewish religion; his children were first brought up without religious education, and were baptised as Lutherans in 1816. (Abraham and his wife were not themselves baptised until 1822). The name Bartholdy was assumed at the suggestion of Lea's brother, Jakob, who had purchased a property of this name and adopted it as his own surname. Abraham was later to explain this decision in a letter to Felix as a means of showing a decisive break with the traditions of his father Moses: 'There can no more be a Christian Mendelssohn than there can be a Jewish Confucius'. Although Felix continued to sign his letters as 'Mendelssohn Bartholdy' in obedience to his fsther's injunctions, he seems not to have objected to the use of 'Mendelssohn' alone.

The family moved to Berlin in 1812. His sister Fanny Mendelssohn (later Fanny Hensel), became a well-known pianist and amateur composer; originally Abraham had thought that she, rather than her brother, might be the more musical.

Mendelssohn is often considered the greatest child prodigy after Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. He began taking piano lessons from his mother when he was six, and at seven was tutored by Marie Bigot in Paris. From 1817 he studied composition with Carl Friedrich Zelter in Berlin. He probably made his first public concert appearance at the age of nine, when he participated in a chamber music concert. He was also a prolific composer as a child, and wrote his first published work, a piano quartet, by the time he was thirteen. Zelter introduced Felix to his friend and correspondent, the elderly Goethe. Felix later took lessons from the composer and virtuoso Ignaz Moscheles who however confessed that he had little to teach him. Moscheles became a close colleague and lifelong friend.

As an adolescent, Felix's works were often performed at home with a private orchestra for the associates of his wealthy parents amongst the intellectual elite of Berlin. Mendelssohn wrote his first twelve symphonies in his early teens (more specifically, from ages twelve to fourteen). These works were ignored for over a century, but are now recorded and heard occasionally in concerts. At fifteen he wrote his first acknowledged symphony for full orchestra, his opus 11 in C minor in 1824. At the age of sixteen he wrote his String Octet in E Flat Major, the first work which showed the full power of his genius, and, together with his overture to Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream, which he wrote a year later, the best known of his early works. (He wrote incidental music for the play in 1842, including the famous Wedding March). In 1827 he saw the first production of his opera, Die Hochzeit des Camacho.

In 1829 Mendelssohn paid his first visit to England, where Moscheles, already settled in London, introduced him to influential musical circles. Felix had a great success, conducting his First Symphony and playing in public and private concerts. On subsequent visits he met with Queen Victoria and her musical husband Prince Albert, both of whom were great admirers of his music. In the course of ten visits to Britain during his life he won a strong following, and the country inspired two of his most famous works, the overture Fingal's Cave (also known as the Hebrides Overture) and the Scottish Symphony (Symphony no.3). His oratorio Elijah was premiered in Birmingham on August 26, 1846.

In 1835, he was appointed as conductor of the Gewandhausorchester Leipzig. This appointment was extremly important for him as he felt himself to be a German and wished to play a leading part in his country's musical life. Despite efforts by the king of Prussia to lure him to Berlin, Mendelssohn sought to develop the musical life of Leipzig and in 1843 he founded the Leipzig Conservatory, where he succesfully persuaded Moscheles to join him.

Mendelssohn's personal life was conventional. His marriage to Cecile Jeanrenaud in March of 1837 was very happy and the couple had five children. Felix was an accomplished painter in water-colour, and his enormous correspondence shows that he could also be a witty writer (in both German and English - and sometimes accompanied by humorous sketches and cartoons in the text).

Mendelssohn suffered from bad health in the final years of his life, probably aggravated by nervous problems and overwork, and he was greatly distressed by the death of his sister Fanny in May 1847. Felix Mendelssohn died later that same year after a series of strokes, in Leipzig. He is buried in the Dreifaltigkeitsfriedhof (Trinity Cemetery) I in Berlin-Kreuzberg.

Featured Items (See Related Items.)

Displaying 1-6 of 6 items.


Felix Mendelssohn : Three Choral Songs : SATB : Sheet Music : Felix Mendelssohn

Felix Mendelssohn : Three Choral Songs

Review: 'The Nightingale (Die Nachtigall)' was composted on June 19, 1843 and published as No. 4 in Sechs Lieder, Op 59. Words by Johann Wolfgang von Goeth, based on a Greek folksong published in 'Chants populaires de la Grece moderne' with French translations by Claude Charles Fauriel accompanying the original texts. Goethe's version, published in 1827 is entitled 'Landlich, though Mendelssohn preferred the title given here. 'The Woodland Singers (Die Waldvogelein)' was composed on June 19, 1843 and published as No 4 in Sechs Lieder, Op 88. The author of the words, given simply as Scutz, is almost certainly heinrich Schutz who published a volume of 'Vermischte Gedichte' at Karlsruhe in 1841. 'Song for the New Year (Neujahrslied)' was composed on August 8, 1844 and published posthumously as No 1 in Sechs Lieder, Op 88. Words by Johann Peter Hebel (1760-1826). The original poem has five verses, of which Mendelssohn set only the first four.

Songlist: The Nightingale, The Woodland Singers, Song for the New Year

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9306b | Sheet Music $5.95 | SATB add item to cart German Choral Music


Felix Mendelssohn : Four Sacred Choruses : SATB : 01 Songbook : Felix Mendelssohn : 029156916317  : 00-K06306

Felix Mendelssohn : Four Sacred Choruses

Review: 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. 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, however these religious compositions reflect the complexity and deeply spiritual basis of his personality. German and English text.

Songlist: Lord, Now Lettest Thou Thy Servant Depart, Op. 69 No. 1, O Be Joyful In The Lord, Op. 69 No. 2, My Soul Doth Magnify The Lord, Op. 69 No. 3, Lord, Lord, Have Mercy Upon Us

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7009b | Songbook $6.95 | SATB add item to cart Sacred Choral Arrangements


Felix Mendelssohn : Six Seasonal Motets : SATB : 01 Songbook : Felix Mendelssohn : 9780193953222 : 9780193953222

Felix Mendelssohn : Six Seasonal Motets

Review: A set of unaccompanied eight-part motets with German and English texts.

Songlist: Christmas, New Year, Ascensiontide, Passiontide, Advent, Good Friday

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9473b | Songbook $6.95 | SATB add item to cart German Choral Music


Netherlands Chamber Choir : Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy : 00  1 CD : Felix Mendelssohn : 5075

Netherlands Chamber Choir : Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy

Review: The complete Part-Songs for a cappella mixed chorus.

Songlist: Sechs Lieder In Freien Zu Singen Op 59., Aus Sechs Lieder Op. 88, Vier Lieder Op.100, Sechs Lieder Im Freien Zu Singen Op. 41, Sechs Lieder In Freien Zu Singen Op. 48

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8635c | 1 CD $15.95 add item to cart Dutch Choral Music


RIAS - Kammerchor : Mendelssohn - Psaumes : 00  1 CD : Marcus Creed : Felix Mendelssohn : 901704

RIAS - Kammerchor : Mendelssohn - Psaumes

Review: "It is an art to conceal art" : Mendelssohn had never presented a more perfect illustration of this maxim than in his Motets, Op.69. Composed in the year of his death, they are probably the finest works of religious music by this composer whom Berlioz had accused of being "a little too fond of the dead". But the most romantic of Bach's votaries had more than one trick up his sleeve and it would be a mistake to underestimate these extraodinary psalms and motets that Mendelssohn went on producing throughout his life, in spite of his rather strained relationship with the eccelsiastic authorities. Tradition and inventiveness are the leading principles of an artistic credo based on the skilful and beguiling mixture of counterpoint and melody, of harmony and brilliant orchestration. After having devoted three universally acclaimed recordings to the choral music of Brahms, the RIAS-Kammerchor is here on familiar ground

Songlist: Psalm 100: "Jauchzet dem Herrn alle Welt", Psalm 2 op. 78 Nr. 1: "Warum toben die Heiden", Psalm 43 op. 78 Nr. 2: "Richte mich, Gott", Psalm 22 op. 78 Nr. 3: "Mein Gott, warum hast du mich verlassen?", Choralmotette op. 23 Nr. 3: "Mitten wir im Leben sind", Motette op. 69 Nr. 1: "Herr, nun lassest du deinen Diener in Frieden fahren", Motette op. 69 Nr. 2: "Jachzet dem Herm alle Welt", Motette op. 69 Nr. 3: "Mein Herz erhebet Gott, den Herrn", Missa breve, Zum Abendsegen: "Herr, sei gnadig unserm Flehn"

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7013c | 1 CD $15.98 add item to cart German Choral Music


St John's College Choir, Cambridge : Mendelssohn - Sacred Choral Works : 00  1 CD : David Hill : Felix Mendelssohn : CDA 67558

St John's College Choir, Cambridge : Mendelssohn - Sacred Choral Works

Review: Nowhere is Mendelssohn's creative psyche more poignantly exposed than in his choral works. His desire to create music rewarding for performers and listeners alike is everywhere apparent, as is his always mellifluous and gracious vocal writing. Most endearing of all are Mendelssohn's worlds of dreamlike contentment, which cocoon the listener in a web of enchanted idealism. Hor mein Bitten (Hear my prayer) is the most popular of his small-scale choral works and was composed during Mendelssohn's eighth visit to England in 1844, just before he began putting the finishing touches to his violin concerto. The piece conjures up the feelings of peace and contentment in the flowing melodic lines of the inimitable O for the wings of a dove, which is also on this disc in its famous English adaptation. All of these sacred works are radiantly performed by The Choir of St John's College, Cambridge under David Hill in the first of a new series of recordings on the Hyperion label.

Songlist: Aus Tiefer Not , Ave Maria, Mitten Wir Im Leben Sind, Hor Mein Bitten, Warum Toben Die Harden, Richte Mich Gott, Zum Abendsegen, Kyrie Eleison, Helig Helig Ist Gott Der Herr Zebaoth, Ehre Sei Gott in Der Hohe, Verleih Uns Frieden, O For The Wings

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8333c | 1 CD $18.95 add item to cart English Choral CDs

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