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Mendelssohn, Félix

November 06, 2012
Group owner Richard Martine

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Mendelssohn, Félix

By: Richard Martine   Post Date : November 06, 2012
Jacob Ludwig Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy (1810-1849), is a German pianist, conductor, organist and among the most prolific, diverse and likely underrated composers of the Romantic period. His most enduring work is music from A Midsummer Night's Dream - which includes the "Wedding March," still played today as the newly married exit a ceremony. (Mendelssohn composed the original piece at 17, adding the march and additional incidental music some years later.)

Other famed pieces include: String Octet in E-flat major (at age 16), the Hebrides Overture and Violin Concerto in E minor.

Abraham and Lea Mendelssohn thought their daughter, Fanny, might become the family's musical genius. Like her brother, she was a gifted child musician. She would be a strong supporter and inspiration to Felix - and some recommend, even the author of some of his music. (Talented though she was, a professional career was frowned on, though the enlightened Mendelssohns sought musical training for both children.) Bach would have a lasting effect on Mendelssohn, an influence which began early in his training and was emerging in his earliest works. (Mendelssohn had written his initial piano quartet by 13, 10 string symphonies by age 14, and completed a full symphony by 15.)

His family converted from Judaism to the Lutheran church (hence the addition of the Bartholdy surname in an attempt to Anglicize in an age rife with anti-Semitism), though the family wasn't particularly religious. It was a change that young Felix resisted.

By his 20s, Mendelssohn was as famous for conducting as composing. He conducted performances of the London Philharmonic where Queen Victoria and Prince Albert were among his admirers. He held leading conducting posts in both Dusseldorf and Leipzig. It is said that he was the first conductor to use a baton, a tradition which endures today.

As versatile as he was, Mendelssohn wrote only one opera. A critical failure, he abandoned the genre.

Mendelssohn lived at a frantic pace for three decades which may account for his early death. He suffered a series of strokes and died at age 38.

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