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Felix Mendelssohn

Queen Victoria

Mendelssohn was regarded by Queen Victoria as “the greatest musical talent since Mozart” and “the most charming man”.1)


Jakob Ludwig Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy was born into an affluent Hamburg family that was friends with many of Germany's greatest artists and musicians. Felix, a frighteningly gifted kid prodigy, excelled as a painter, poet, athlete, linguist, and musician.2)

Young Pianist

Felix began taking piano lessons from his mother when he was six years old. Felix and his three siblings began studying piano after the family relocated to Berlin.3)

Early Compositions

Mendelssohn composed 12 string symphonies between the ages of 12 and 14, influenced by Bach, Beethoven, and Mozart.4)

Ferdinand David

Mendelssohn made close acquaintances with composer Ferdinand David, who was also an accomplished musician and for whom Mendelssohn wrote his violin concerto. It took him five years, during which time he sought David's assistance on a regular basis. In 1844, David delivered the first performance. The second performance was given by Joachim, a 14-year-old who would go on to become Europe's best violinist.5)

St. Matthew Passion

In 1829, Mendelssohn organized and conducted an acclaimed performance of Bach's long-forgotten St. Matthew Passion. The success of the concert - the first since Bach's death in 1750 – was crucial in revitalizing Bach's music across Europe.6)


Mendelssohn traveled extensively, beginning with his first of 10 visits to Britain in 1829. Following that, he traveled to Italy. The cheerful and positive tone with which Mozart opens his Italian Symphony carries all the signs of a happy man anxious to leave his imprint on the work and communicate his travels through music.7)


Mendelssohn was a great admirer of Britain, and the British people adored him and his music in equal measure. He traveled extensively around the nation, and excursions to Scotland inspired two of his most popular works: the Scottish Symphony and the Hebrides Overture.8)

Fingal's Cave

Mendelssohn visited the Scottish island of Staffa and its famed Fingal's Cave in 1829. He penned the first few bars of what became the Hebrides Overture on a postcard to his sister.9)


Mendelssohn was a fantastic watercolour painter. He also kept a massive correspondence, which demonstrates his humor. In the content of his letters, he would occasionally create pictures and cartoons.10)

Leipzig Gewandhaus

Mendelssohn was a very skilled conductor as well as a composer, and he was appointed music director of the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra at the age of 26 in 1835. His concert programs featured several of his own compositions as well as those by his contemporaries.11)

Cécile Charlotte Sophie Jeanrenaud

Mendelssohn's upbringing in a stable home no doubt helped to his own extremely happy marriage in 1837, which resulted in five children. Cécile Charlotte Sophie Jeanrenaud, the daughter of a French pastor, was his wife. Cécile passed away in September 1853, only six years after her husband.12)

Excellent Pianist

Mendelssohn was a fantastic keyboard player. 'First and foremost, we regard his pianoforte-playing, with its extraordinary suppleness of touch, quickness, and force; next, his scientific and powerful organ playing,' wrote one of his obituarists.13)


In 1846, Mendelssohn's oratorio Elijah premiered in Birmingham. It was the 'Messiah' of its day, tremendously popular and solidifying Mendelssohn's place as one of the greatest composers of religious music.14)


Mendelssohn's health deteriorated in the latter years of his life. He was fatigued and unwell after a frantic last tour of England. He died at the age of 38 after a series of strokes. Death, according to Mendelssohn, is a place “where it is to be hoped there is still music, but no more sadness or partings”.15)

felix_mendelssohn.txt · Last modified: 2022/02/24 02:19 by eziothekilla34