Felix Mendelssohn

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About Felix Mendelssohn

A creative prodigy without equal, by his midteens Felix Mendelssohn was composing startlingly original masterworks that combine Classical elegance and poise with Romantic fantasy. Born in Hamburg in 1809 and raised by an enlightened family that nurtured his polymathic genius, he was viewed by his admiring public as the natural heir of Mozart. Accordingly, his breakthrough teenage masterpieces—a String Octet in E-flat major, Op. 20 (1825) and Overture to A Midsummer Night’s Dream Op. 21 (1826)—possess a lightness of touch, melodic charm, excited forward momentum, and formal clarity that characterize the remainder of his output. His genius for orchestral color and precision is at its most potent in the windswept seascapes of the Hebrides Overture Op. 26 (1830) and gentle reminiscences of his “Scottish” Symphony in A minor Op. 46 (1842), while his scintillating virtuoso flair is typified by the Violin Concerto in E minor Op. 64 (1844). Mendelssohn also somehow found time to run the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, kickstart the rediscovery of Johann Sebastian Bach’s genius with an 1829 Berlin performance of the St. Matthew Passion, and thoroughly rejuvenate British musical culture. Exhausted by his whirlwind lifestyle and deeply affected by the death of his gifted composer sister Fanny (1805–1847), Mendelssohn passed away in 1847, aged just 38.

Hamburg, Germany
February 3, 1809
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