Classical music refers to the music that was produced roughly in the 11th century .This is an essay on the life and music of one famous composer; Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847). The essay focuses on the time period 1810-1850 often labeled as the Romantic period in classical music.
When he was young he was labeled as the next Mozart “Felix Mendelssohn is regarded by classical music aficionados and critics alike, as one of the most prolific and gifted composers the world has ever known, some critics as the 19th century equivalent of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.” ( Music Academy Online, Inc.) His first composition was a piece that he wrote when he was only seventeen years old. The piece called “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” that went on to become an overture (instrumental introduction to an opera) to A Midsummer Night’s Dream inspired by Shakespeare’s play of the same name. During those early years Mendelssohn and Beethoven composed lots of overtures.
Mendelssohn also wrote Incidental music (Music played during spoken word).One of his most famous work was the piece called “Wedding march.”
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The life of Mendelssohn
Felix Mendelssohn was born in Hamburg, Germany February 3, 1809 to his father Abraham a successful banker. In 1811 his family moved to Berlin due to Napoleon’s occupation of Hamburg.
He had 4 siblings and out of the four his older sister Fanny also showed an interest in music. Felix first started performing publicly as a pianist at the age of nine. Luckily for Felix his family knew the famous conductor Carl Freidich Zelter who helped him nature his talent.
At that young age Felix dealt with complex musical processes(Bach’s fugues).In addition to being interested to music he was also fond of Mathematics ,Science Classics, History etc all of which he was tutored by highly qualified tutors.
In 1820 Felix had composed several pieces for example the piece called Die Soldatenliebschaf. The point in his life when he decided to dedicate his life to composing music was during his 12th birthday where he performed for the visiting guests. In that same year he composed two other stage works performed by the Sing-Akademie (the oldest mixed choral association in the world founded in 1791 by Carl Friedrich Christian Fasch)
Later in November 1821, Zelter took Felix to Johann Wolfgang von Goethe‘s resident where the two formed a friendship that would last many years to come despite the age difference of sixty. At the age of thirteen, together with his sister, they would perform in their house. Most of Berlin’s elite community would attend the ‘concerts’ and be amazed by the talented pianist and composer. In the years that followed his parents encouraged him to pursue his talent in music in further but unfortunately for Fanny at the time it was not proper for a lady to be involved in music and so her talent remained limited to only the private setting of their home.
In 1823 Felix published his first work which was his Piano quartet in C minor and that was at the age of 15.In 1825 his father took him to Luigi Cherubini who was the director of the French National conservatory. Luigi was seen by most as a critic; his approval was taken as some sort of approval that one possessed extra ordinary talent.
Mendelssohn completed the overture to A Midsummer Night’s Dream in the year 1826, and like most of his work he gave a private performance at the family home. His first public performance took place in Stettin (Poland) in February 1927. Unfortunately due to some factors which included the singer being sick the performance did not live up to its expectation and it was removed after only one evening and after that Mendelssohn never wrote an opera in his lifetime.
In the later 1820’s due to Zelter’s influence Felix’s interest in Baroque music continued to grow and he composed several works including ” Accis and Galatea” some of his work were performed by the Sing-Akadamie with huge success.
Between 1829 and 1832 Mendelssohn embarked on a journey throughout Europe. Some of the countries that he toured included England, Italy, Austria, France but he grew fond of England where he visited more often than the other places. His travels helped him because he got the opportunity to meet other famous musicians like Hector Berlioz, Frederic Chopin and Francois-Antoine. Apart from just getting to travel and meeting other musicians his travels also gave him inspiration to compose for instance he drew his reminiscences of the Scottish and Italian country sides for two of his famous symphonies.
Mendelssohn first professional appointment was that of music director of the city of Dusseldorf .His duties while there included the programming and conduction of all official city musical performances. He also worked for the Catholic Church choir and while there he continued composing more of his work like his oratorio St. Paul.
In April 1836 the premier of his oratorio St. Paul confirmed his status as a first-rate composer. In the same year he met a lady called Cecile Jeanrenaud whom he later married in 1837.
His second next oratorio (Elijah) took ten years to premier at the festival of Birmingham England. In 1840 Felix was called upon by the Prussian King Friedich Wilhelm IV to work for him in Berlin, the King appointed him director of all sacred music. His duties while there included composing sacred music and conducting orchestral performances. This gained him a lot of demand in England and that led him to receiving Queen Victoria.
During the last five years of his life he spent travelling from performance to performances and also establishing the music conservatory in Leipzig that opened in 1843 and still stands to date under the name Die Hochschule für Musik und Theater Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy.
1847 was unfortunately a bad year for Mendelssohn, it all started when he learnt the sad news that his sister had passed away due to a stroke. The news shocked him that for the next couple of weeks he did not compose any music. Eventually when he got back to composing during the summer, he composed both an oratorio (Christus) and an unfinished opera(Die Lorelei).In September during a visit to Fanny’s tomb he entered a state of shock and in the coming months he suffered several successive strokes and on November 4,1847 at the aged of thirty-eight he passed away.
Despite his death at an early age he left a legacy that would be remembered for generations to come, he accomplished a great deal of professionalism and up to date his legacy lives on through his music.
Some of his Mendelssohn work are Jube, Domine solo voice, double voices 1822(Sacred), Die wandernden Komödianten 1822(Opera), Die Soldatenliebschaft 1820 (Opera), Er hat der Sonne eine Hütte gemacht 1821 (Sacred) etc.