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4/6/2019 Felix Mendelssohn - Wikipedia

Felix Mendelssohn
Jakob Ludwig Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy[n 1] (3 February 1809 – 4
November 1847), born and widely known as Felix Mendelssohn,[n 2] was a
German composer, pianist, organist and conductor of the early Romantic
period. Mendelssohn's compositions include symphonies, concertos, piano
music and chamber music. His best-known works include his Overture and
incidental music for A Midsummer Night's Dream, the Italian Symphony, the
Scottish Symphony, the oratorio Elijah, the overture The Hebrides, his mature
Violin Concerto, and his String Octet. The melody for the Christmas carol
"Hark! The Herald Angels Sing" is also his. Mendelssohn's Songs Without
Words are his most famous solo piano compositions.

A grandson of the philosopher Moses Mendelssohn, Felix Mendelssohn was

born into a prominent Jewish family. He was brought up without religion until
the age of seven, when he was baptised as a Reformed Christian. Felix was
recognised early as a musical prodigy, but his parents were cautious and did
not seek to capitalise on his talent.
Portrait of Mendelssohn by the
Mendelssohn enjoyed early success in Germany, and revived interest in the English miniaturist James Warren
music of Johann Sebastian Bach, notably with his performance of the St Childe, 1839
Matthew Passion in 1829. He became well received in his travels throughout
Europe as a composer, conductor and soloist; his ten visits to Britain – during
which many of his major works were premiered – form an important part of his adult career. His essentially conservative
musical tastes set him apart from more adventurous musical contemporaries such as Franz Liszt, Richard Wagner,
Charles-Valentin Alkan and Hector Berlioz. The Leipzig Conservatory,[n 3] which he founded, became a bastion of this
anti-radical outlook. After a long period of relative denigration due to changing musical tastes and antisemitism in the late
19th and early 20th centuries, his creative originality has been re-evaluated. He is now among the most popular
composers of the Romantic era.

Musical education
Early maturity
Meeting Goethe and conducting Bach
Leipzig and Berlin
Mendelssohn in Britain
Personal life 1/25
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Mendelssohn and his contemporaries
Marriage and children
Jenny Lind

Early works
Other orchestral music
Chamber music
Piano music
Organ music
Choral works
Reputation and legacy
The first century
Modern opinions
Notes and references
Further reading
External links
Music scores


Felix Mendelssohn was born on 3 February 1809, in Hamburg, at the time an independent city-state,[n 4] in the same
house where, a year later, the dedicatee and first performer of his Violin Concerto, Ferdinand David, would be born.[4]
Mendelssohn's father, the banker Abraham Mendelssohn, was the son of the German Jewish philosopher Moses
Mendelssohn, whose family was prominent in the German Jewish community.[5] Until his baptism at age seven,
Mendelssohn was brought up largely without religion.[6] His mother, Lea Salomon, was a member of the Itzig family and a
sister of Jakob Salomon Bartholdy.[7] Mendelssohn was the second of four children; his older sister Fanny also displayed
exceptional and precocious musical talent.[8] 2/25
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The family moved to Berlin in 1811, leaving Hamburg in disguise in fear of French
reprisal for the Mendelssohn bank's role in breaking Napoleon's Continental System
blockade.[9] Abraham and Lea Mendelssohn sought to give their children – Fanny,
Felix, Paul and Rebecka – the best education possible. Fanny became a pianist well
known in Berlin musical circles as a composer; originally Abraham had thought that
she, rather than Felix, would be the more musical. But it was not considered proper, by
either Abraham or Felix, for a woman to pursue a career in music, so she remained an
active but non-professional musician.[10] Abraham was initially disinclined to allow
Felix to follow a musical career until it became clear that he was seriously dedicated.[11]

Mendelssohn grew up in an intellectual environment. Frequent visitors to the salon

organised by his parents at their home in Berlin included artists, musicians and
scientists, among them Wilhelm and Alexander von Humboldt, and the mathematician
Felix Mendelssohn aged 12
Peter Gustav Lejeune Dirichlet (whom Mendelssohn's sister Rebecka would later (1821) by Carl Joseph
marry).[12] The musician Sarah Rothenburg has written of the household that "Europe Begas
came to their living room".[13]

Abraham Mendelssohn renounced the Jewish religion prior to Felix's birth; he and his wife decided not to have Felix
circumcised, in contravention of the Jewish tradition.[14] Felix and his siblings were first brought up without religious
education, and were baptised by a Reformed Church minister in 1816,[15] at which time Felix was given the additional
names Jakob Ludwig. Abraham and his wife Lea were baptised in 1822, and formally adopted the surname Mendelssohn
Bartholdy (which they had used since 1812) for themselves and for their children.[6] The name Bartholdy was added at the
suggestion of Lea's brother, Jakob Salomon Bartholdy, who had inherited a property of this name in Luisenstadt and
adopted it as his own surname.[16] In an 1829 letter to Felix, Abraham explained that adopting the Bartholdy name was
meant to demonstrate 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". (Letter to Felix of 8 July 1829).[17] On embarking on his musical
career, Felix did not entirely drop the name Mendelssohn as Abraham had requested, but in deference to his father signed
his letters and had his visiting cards printed using the form 'Mendelssohn Bartholdy'.[18] In 1829, his sister Fanny wrote to
him of "Bartholdy [...] this name that we all dislike".[19]


Musical education
Mendelssohn began taking piano lessons from his mother when he was six, and at seven was tutored by Marie Bigot in
Paris.[20] Later in Berlin, all four Mendelssohn children studied piano with Ludwig Berger, who was himself a former
student of Muzio Clementi.[21] From at least May 1819 Mendelssohn (initially with his sister Fanny) studied counterpoint
and composition with Carl Friedrich Zelter in Berlin.[22] This was an important influence on his future career. Zelter had
almost certainly been recommended as a teacher by his aunt Sarah Levy, who had been a pupil of W. F. Bach and a patron
of C. P. E. Bach. Sarah Levy displayed some talent as a keyboard player, and often played with Zelter's orchestra at the
Berliner Singakademie; she and the Mendelssohn family were among its leading patrons. Sarah had formed an important
collection of Bach family manuscripts which she bequeathed to the Singakademie; Zelter, whose tastes in music were
conservative, was also an admirer of the Bach tradition.[23] This undoubtedly played a significant part in forming Felix 3/25
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Mendelssohn's musical tastes, as his works reflect this study of Baroque and early classical music. His fugues and chorales
especially reflect a tonal clarity and use of counterpoint reminiscent of Johann Sebastian Bach, whose music influenced
him deeply.[24]

Early maturity
Mendelssohn probably made his first public concert appearance at the age of nine,
when he participated in a chamber music concert accompanying a horn duo.[25]
He was a prolific composer from an early age. As an adolescent, his works were
often performed at home with a private orchestra for the associates of his wealthy
parents amongst the intellectual elite of Berlin.[26] Between the ages of 12 and 14,
Mendelssohn wrote 12 string symphonies for such concerts, and a number of
chamber works.[27] His first work, a piano quartet, was published when he was 13.
It was probably Abraham Mendelssohn who procured the publication of this
quartet by the house of Schlesinger.[28] In 1824 the 15-year-old wrote his first
symphony for full orchestra (in C minor, Op. 11).[29]

At age 16 Mendelssohn wrote his String Octet in E-flat major, a work which has
been regarded as "mark[ing] the beginning of his maturity as a composer."[30]
This Octet and his Overture to Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream, which First page of the manuscript of
he wrote a year later in 1826, are the best-known of his early works. (Later, in Mendelssohn's Octet (1825)
1843, he also wrote incidental music for the play, including the famous "Wedding (now in the US Library of
March".) The Overture is perhaps the earliest example of a concert overture – that Congress)

is, a piece not written deliberately to accompany a staged performance but to

evoke a literary theme in performance on a concert platform; this was a genre
which became a popular form in musical Romanticism.[31]

In 1824 Mendelssohn studied under the composer and piano virtuoso Ignaz Moscheles, who confessed in his diaries[32]
that he had little to teach him. Moscheles and Mendelssohn became close colleagues and lifelong friends. The year 1827
saw the premiere – and sole performance in his lifetime – of Mendelssohn's opera Die Hochzeit des Camacho. The failure
of this production left him disinclined to venture into the genre again.[33]

Besides music, Mendelssohn's education included art, literature, languages, and philosophy. He had a particular interest
in classical literature[34] and translated Terence's Andria for his tutor Heyse in 1825; Heyse was impressed and had it
published in 1826 as a work of "his pupil, F****" [i.e. "Felix" (asterisks as provided in original text)].[35][n 5] This
translation also qualified Mendelssohn to study at the Humboldt University of Berlin, where from 1826 to 1829 he
attended lectures on aesthetics by Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, on history by Eduard Gans, and on geography by Carl

Meeting Goethe and conducting Bach

In 1821 Zelter introduced Mendelssohn to his friend and correspondent Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (then in his
seventies), who was greatly impressed by the child, leading to perhaps the earliest confirmed comparison with Mozart in
the following conversation between Goethe and Zelter:

"Musical prodigies ... are probably no longer so rare; but what this little man can do in extemporizing and
playing at sight borders the miraculous, and I could not have believed it possible at so early an age." "And
yet you heard Mozart in his seventh year at Frankfurt?" said Zelter. "Yes", answered Goethe, "... but what 4/25
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your pupil already accomplishes, bears the same relation to the Mozart of that time that the cultivated talk of
a grown-up person bears to the prattle of a child."[38]

Mendelssohn was invited to meet Goethe on several later occasions,[39] and set a number of Goethe's poems to music. His
other compositions inspired by Goethe include the overture Calm Sea and Prosperous Voyage (Op. 27, 1828), and the
cantata Die erste Walpurgisnacht (The First Walpurgis Night, Op. 60, 1832).[40]

In 1829, with the backing of Zelter and the assistance of the actor Eduard Devrient, Mendelssohn arranged and conducted
a performance in Berlin of Bach's St Matthew Passion. Four years previously his grandmother, Bella Salomon, had given
him a copy of the manuscript of this (by then all-but-forgotten) masterpiece.[41] The orchestra and choir for the
performance were provided by the Berlin Singakademie. The success of this performance, one of the very few since Bach's
death and the first ever outside of Leipzig,[n 6] was the central event in the revival of Bach's music in Germany and,
eventually, throughout Europe.[43] It earned Mendelssohn widespread acclaim at the age of 20. It also led to one of the few
explicit references which Mendelssohn made to his origins: "To think that it took an actor and a Jew's son to revive the
greatest Christian music for the world!"[44][45]

Over the next few years Mendelssohn travelled widely. His first visit to England was in 1829; other places visited during
the 1830s included Vienna, Florence, Milan, Rome and Naples, in all of which he met with local and visiting musicians and
artists. These years proved to be the germination for some of his most famous works, including the Hebrides Overture and
the Scottish and Italian symphonies.[46]

On Zelter's death in 1832, Mendelssohn had hopes of succeeding him as conductor of the Singakademie; but at a vote in
January 1833 he was defeated for the post by Carl Friedrich Rungenhagen. This may have been because of Mendelssohn's
youth, and fear of possible innovations; it was also suspected by some to be attributable to his Jewish ancestry.[47]
Following this rebuff, Mendelssohn divided most of his professional time over the next few years between Britain and
Düsseldorf, where he was appointed musical director (his first paid post as a musician) in 1833.[48]

In the spring of that year Mendelssohn directed the Lower Rhenish Music Festival in Düsseldorf, beginning with a
performance of George Frideric Handel's oratorio Israel in Egypt prepared from the original score, which he had found in
London. This precipitated a Handel revival in Germany, similar to the reawakened interest in J. S. Bach following his
performance of the St. Matthew Passion.[49] Mendelssohn worked with the dramatist Karl Immermann to improve local
theatre standards, and made his first appearance as an opera conductor in Immermann's production of Mozart's Don
Giovanni at the end of 1833, where he took umbrage at the audience's protests about the cost of tickets. His frustration at
his everyday duties in Düsseldorf, and the city's provincialism, led him to resign his position at the end of 1834. He had
offers from both Munich and Leipzig for important musical posts, namely, direction of the Munich Opera, the editorship
of the prestigious Leipzig music journal the Allgemeine musikalische Zeitung, and direction of the Leipzig Gewandhaus
Orchestra; he accepted the latter in 1835.[50][51]

Leipzig and Berlin

In Leipzig, Mendelssohn concentrated on developing the town's musical life by working with the orchestra, the opera
house, the Thomanerchor (of which Bach had been a director), and the city's other choral and musical institutions.
Mendelssohn's concerts included, in addition to many of his own works, three series of "historical concerts" featuring
music of the eighteenth century, and a number of works by his contemporaries.[52] He was deluged by offers of music from
rising and would-be composers; among these was Richard Wagner, who submitted his early Symphony, the score of
which, to Wagner's disgust, Mendelssohn lost or mislaid.[53] Mendelssohn also revived interest in the music of Franz 5/25
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Schubert. Robert Schumann discovered the manuscript of Schubert's Ninth Symphony

and sent it to Mendelssohn, who promptly premiered it in Leipzig on 21 March 1839,
more than a decade after Schubert's death.[54]

A landmark event during Mendelssohn's Leipzig years was the premiere of his oratorio
Paulus, (the English version of this is known as St. Paul), given at the Lower Rhenish
Festival in Düsseldorf in 1836, shortly after the death of the composer's father, which
affected him greatly; Felix wrote that he would "never cease to endeavour to gain his
approval [...] although I can no longer enjoy it".[55] St. Paul seemed to many of
Mendelssohn's contemporaries to be his finest work, and sealed his European

When Friedrich Wilhelm IV came to the Prussian throne in 1840 with ambitions to Mendelssohn's study in
develop Berlin as a cultural centre (including the establishment of a music school, and Leipzig
reform of music for the church), the obvious choice to head these reforms was
Mendelssohn. He was reluctant to undertake the task, especially in the light of his
existing strong position in Leipzig.[57] Mendelssohn nonetheless spent some time in Berlin, writing some church music,
and, at the King's request, music for productions of Sophocles's Antigone (1841 – an overture and seven pieces) and
Oedipus at Colonus (1845), A Midsummer Night's Dream (1843) and Racine's Athalie (1845).[n 7] But the funds for the
school never materialised, and many of the court's promises to Mendelssohn regarding finances, title, and concert
programming were broken. He was therefore not displeased to have the excuse to return to Leipzig.[59]

In 1843 Mendelssohn founded a major music school – the Leipzig Conservatory, now the Hochschule für Musik und
Theater "Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy".[n 8] where he persuaded Ignaz Moscheles and Robert Schumann to join him.
Other prominent musicians, including the string players Ferdinand David and Joseph Joachim and the music theorist
Moritz Hauptmann, also became staff members.[60] After Mendelssohn's death in 1847, his musically conservative
tradition was carried on when Moscheles succeeded him as head of the Conservatory.[61]

Mendelssohn in Britain
Mendelssohn first visited Britain in 1829, where Moscheles, who had already settled in London, introduced him to
influential musical circles. In the summer he visited Edinburgh, where he met among others the composer John Thomson,
whom he later recommended for the post of Professor of Music at Edinburgh University.[62] He made ten visits to Britain,
lasting about 20 months; he won a strong following, which enabled him to make a good impression on British musical life.
[63] He composed and performed, and also edited for British publishers the first critical editions of oratorios of Handel
and of the organ music of J. S. Bach. Scotland inspired two of his most famous works: the overture The Hebrides (also
known as Fingal's Cave); and the Scottish Symphony (Symphony No. 3).[64] An English Heritage blue plaque
commemorating Mendelssohn's residence in London was placed at 4 Hobart Place in Belgravia, London, in 2013.[65]

His protégé, the British composer and pianist William Sterndale Bennett, worked closely with Mendelssohn during this
period, both in London and Leipzig. He first heard Bennett perform in London in 1833 aged 17.[66][n 9] Bennett appeared
with Mendelssohn in concerts in Leipzig throughout the 1836/1837 season.[68]

On Mendelssohn's eighth British visit in the summer of 1844, he conducted five of the Philharmonic concerts in London,
and wrote: "[N]ever before was anything like this season – we never went to bed before half-past one, every hour of every
day was filled with engagements three weeks beforehand, and I got through more music in two months than in all the rest
of the year." (Letter to Rebecka Mendelssohn Bartholdy, Soden, 22 July 1844).[69] On subsequent visits Mendelssohn met
Queen Victoria and her husband Prince Albert, himself a composer, who both greatly admired his music.[70][71] 6/25
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Mendelssohn's oratorio Elijah was commissioned by the Birmingham Triennial Music Festival and premiered on 26
August 1846, at the Town Hall, Birmingham. It was composed to a German text translated into English by William
Bartholomew, who authored and translated many of Mendelssohn's works during his time in England.[72][73]

On his last visit to Britain in 1847, Mendelssohn was the soloist in Beethoven's Piano Concerto
No. 4 and conducted his own Scottish Symphony with the Philharmonic Orchestra before the
Queen and Prince Albert.[74]

Mendelssohn suffered from poor health in the final years of his life, probably aggravated by
nervous problems and overwork. A final tour of England left him exhausted and ill, and the
death of his sister, Fanny, on 14 May 1847, caused him further distress. Less than six months
later, on 4 November, aged 38, Mendelssohn died in Leipzig after a series of strokes.[75] His
grandfather Moses, Fanny, and both his parents had all died from similar apoplexies.[76][n 10]
Felix's funeral was held at the Paulinerkirche, Leipzig, and he was buried at the
Dreifaltigkeitsfriedhof I in Berlin-Kreuzberg. The pallbearers included Moscheles, Schumann
and Niels Gade.[78] Mendelssohn had once described death, in a letter to a stranger, as a place Mendelssohn's
gravestone at the
"where it is to be hoped there is still music, but no more sorrow or partings."[79]

Personal life

While Mendelssohn was often presented as equable, happy, and placid in
temperament, particularly in the detailed family memoirs published by his
nephew Sebastian Hensel after the composer's death,[80] this was misleading.
The music historian R. Larry Todd notes "the remarkable process of
idealization" of Mendelssohn's character "that crystallized in the memoirs of
the composer's circle", including Hensel's.[81] The nickname "discontented
Polish count" was given to Mendelssohn on account of his aloofness, and he
referred to the epithet in his letters.[82] He was frequently given to fits of
temper which occasionally led to collapse. Devrient mentions that on one
View of Lucerne – watercolour by occasion in the 1830s, when his wishes had been crossed, "his excitement was
Mendelssohn, 1847 increased so fearfully ... that when the family was assembled ... he began to talk
incoherently in English. The stern voice of his father at last checked the wild
torrent of words; they took him to bed, and a profound sleep of twelve hours
restored him to his normal state".[83] Such fits may be related to his early death.[76]

Mendelssohn was an enthusiastic visual artist who worked in pencil and watercolour, a skill which he enjoyed throughout
his life.[84][85] His correspondences indicate that he could write with considerable wit in German and English – these
letters are sometimes accompanied by humorous sketches and cartoons.[86]

Religion 7/25
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On 21 March 1816, at the age of seven years, Mendelssohn was baptised with his brother and sisters in a home ceremony
by Johann Jakob Stegemann, minister of the Evangelical congregation of Berlin's Jerusalem Church and New Church.[6]
Although Mendelssohn was a conforming Christian as a member of the Reformed Church,[n 11] he was both conscious and
proud of his Jewish ancestry and notably of his connection with his grandfather, Moses Mendelssohn. He was the prime
mover in proposing to the publisher Heinrich Brockhaus a complete edition of Moses's works, which continued with the
support of his uncle, Joseph Mendelssohn.[88] Felix was notably reluctant, either in his letters or conversation, to
comment on his innermost beliefs; his friend Devrient wrote that "[his] deep convictions were never uttered in intercourse
with the world; only in rare and intimate moments did they ever appear, and then only in the slightest and most humorous
allusions".[89] Thus for example in a letter to his sister Rebecka, Mendelssohn rebukes her complaint about an unpleasant
relative: "What do you mean by saying you are not hostile to Jews? I hope this was a joke [...] It is really sweet of you that
you do not despise your family, isn't it?"[90] Some modern scholars have devoted considerable energy to demonstrate
either that Mendelssohn was deeply sympathetic to his ancestors' Jewish beliefs, or that he was hostile to this and sincere
in his Christian beliefs.[n 12]

Mendelssohn and his contemporaries

Throughout his life Mendelssohn was wary of the more radical musical developments
undertaken by some of his contemporaries. He was generally on friendly, if sometimes
somewhat cool, terms with Hector Berlioz, Franz Liszt, and Giacomo Meyerbeer, but in his
letters expresses his frank disapproval of their works, for example writing of Liszt that his
compositions were "inferior to his playing, and […] only calculated for virtuosos";[92] of
Berlioz's overture Les francs-juges "[T]he orchestration is such a frightful muddle [...] that
one ought to wash one's hands after handling one of his scores";[93] and of Meyerbeer's opera
Robert le diable "I consider it ignoble", calling its villain Bertram "a poor devil".[94] When his
friend the composer Ferdinand Hiller suggested in conversation to Mendelssohn that he
looked rather like Meyerbeer – they were actually distant cousins, both descendants of Rabbi
Moses Isserles – Mendelssohn was so upset that he immediately went to get a haircut to Giacomo Meyerbeer
by Josef Kriehuber,
differentiate himself.[95]
In particular, Mendelssohn seems to have regarded Paris and its music with the greatest of
suspicion and an almost puritanical distaste. Attempts made during his visit there to interest
him in Saint-Simonianism ended in embarrassing scenes.[96] It is significant that the only musician with whom
Mendelssohn remained a close personal friend, Ignaz Moscheles, was of an older generation and equally conservative in
outlook. Moscheles preserved this conservative attitude at the Leipzig Conservatory until his own death in 1870.[61]

Marriage and children

Mendelssohn married Cécile Charlotte Sophie Jeanrenaud (10 October 1817 – 25 September 1853), the daughter of a
French Reformed Church clergyman, on 28 March 1837.[97] The couple had five children: Carl, Marie, Paul, Lili and Felix
August. The second youngest child, Felix August, contracted measles in 1844 and was left with impaired health; he died in
1851.[98] The eldest, Carl Mendelssohn Bartholdy (7 February 1838 – 23 February 1897), became a historian, and
Professor of History at Heidelberg and Freiburg universities; he died in a psychiatric institution in Freiburg aged 59.[99]
Paul Mendelssohn Bartholdy (1841–1880) was a noted chemist and pioneered the manufacture of aniline dye. Marie
married Victor Benecke and lived in London. Lili married Adolf Wach, later Professor of Law at Leipzig University.[100]

The family papers inherited by Marie's and Lili's children form the basis of the extensive collection of Mendelssohn
manuscripts, including the so-called "Green Books" of his correspondence, now in the Bodleian Library at Oxford
University.[101] Cécile Mendelssohn Bartholdy died less than six years after her husband, on 25 September 1853.[102] 8/25
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Jenny Lind
Mendelssohn became close to the Swedish soprano Jenny Lind,
whom he met in October 1844. Papers confirming their
relationship had not been made public.[103][n 13] In 2013, George
Biddlecombe confirmed in the Journal of the Royal Musical
Association that "The Committee of the Mendelssohn Scholarship
Foundation possesses material indicating that Mendelssohn wrote
passionate love letters to Jenny Lind entreating her to join him in
an adulterous relationship and threatening suicide as a means of
exerting pressure upon her, and that these letters were destroyed Mendelssohn's wife
on being discovered after her death."[106] Cécile (1846) by
Jenny Lind
Eduard Magnus
Mendelssohn met and worked with Lind many times, and started
an opera, Lorelei, for her, based on the legend of the Lorelei Rhine maidens; the opera was
unfinished at his death. He is said to have tailored the aria "Hear Ye Israel", in his oratorio Elijah, to Lind's voice, although
she did not sing the part until after his death, at a concert in December 1848.[107] In 1847, Mendelssohn attended a
London performance of Meyerbeer's Robert le diable – an opera that musically he despised – in order to hear Lind's
British debut, in the role of Alice. The music critic Henry Chorley, who was with him, wrote: "I see as I write the smile with
which Mendelssohn, whose enjoyment of Mdlle. Lind's talent was unlimited, turned round and looked at me, as if a load of
anxiety had been taken off his mind. His attachment to Mdlle. Lind's genius as a singer was unbounded, as was his desire
for her success."[108]

Upon Mendelssohn's death, Lind wrote: "[He was] the only person who brought fulfillment to my spirit, and almost as
soon as I found him I lost him again." In 1849, she established the Mendelssohn Scholarship Foundation, which makes an
award to a young resident British composer every two years in Mendelssohn's memory. The first winner of the
scholarship, in 1856, was Arthur Sullivan, then aged 14. In 1869, Lind erected a plaque in Mendelssohn's memory at his
birthplace in Hamburg.[103][109]



Something of Mendelssohn's intense attachment to his personal vision of music is conveyed in his comments to a
correspondent who suggested converting some of the Songs Without Words into lieder by adding texts: "What [the] music
I love expresses to me, are not thoughts that are too indefinite for me to put into words, but on the contrary, too

Schumann wrote of Mendelssohn that he was "the Mozart of the nineteenth century, the most brilliant musician, the one
who most clearly sees through the contradictions of the age and for the first time reconciles them."[112] This appreciation
brings to the fore two features that characterized Mendelssohn's compositions and his compositional process. First, that
his inspiration for musical style was rooted in his technical mastery and his interpretation of the style of previous
masters,[113] although he certainly recognized and developed the strains of early Romanticism in the music of Beethoven
and Weber.[114] The historian James Garratt writes that from his early career, "the view emerged that Mendelssohn's
engagement with early music was a defining aspect of his creativity."[115] This approach was recognized by Mendelssohn 9/25
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himself, who wrote that, in his meetings with Goethe, he gave the poet
"historical exhibitions" at the keyboard; "every morning, for about an hour, I
have to play a variety of works by great composers in chronological order, and
must explain to him how they contributed to the advance of music."[116]
Secondly, it highlights that Mendelssohn was more concerned to reinvigorate
the musical legacy which he inherited, rather than to replace it with new forms
and styles, or with the use of more exotic orchestration.[117] In these ways he
differed significantly from many of his contemporaries in the early Romantic
period, such as Wagner, Berlioz and Franz Liszt.[118] Whilst Mendelssohn
admired Liszt's virtuosity at the keyboard, he found his music jejune. Berlioz
said of Mendelssohn that he had "perhaps studied the music of the dead too

The musicologist Greg Vitercik considers that, while "Mendelssohn's music

only rarely aspires to provoke", the stylistic innovations evident from his
earliest works solve some of the contradictions between classical forms and the
Mendelssohn plays to Goethe,
sentiments of Romanticism. The expressiveness of Romantic music presented
1830, by Moritz Oppenheim, 1864
a problem in adherence to sonata form; the final (recapitulation) section of a
movement could seem, in the context of Romantic style, a bland element
without passion or soul. Furthermore, it could be seen as a pedantic delay before reaching the emotional climax of a
movement, which in the classical tradition had tended to be at the transition from the development section of the
movement to the recapitulation; whereas Berlioz and other "modernists" sought to have the emotional climax at the end of
a movement, if necessary by adding an extended coda to follow the recapitulation proper. Mendelssohn's solution to this
problem was less sensational than Berlioz's approach, but was rooted in changing the structural balance of the formal
components of the movement. Thus typically in a Mendelssohnian movement, the development-recapitulation transition
might not be strongly marked, and the recapitulation section would be harmonically or melodically varied so as not to be a
direct copy of the opening, exposition, section; this allowed a logical movement towards a final climax. Vitercik
summarizes the effect as "to assimilate the dynamic trajectory of 'external form' to the 'logical' unfolding of the story of the

Richard Taruskin writes that, although Mendelssohn produced works of extraordinary mastery at a very early age,

he never outgrew his precocious youthful style. [...] He remained stylistically conservative [...] feeling no
need to attract attention with a display of "revolutionary" novelty. Throughout his short career he remained
comfortably faithful to the musical status quo – that is, the "classical" forms, as they were already thought of
by his time. His version of romanticism, already evident in his earliest works, consisted in musical
"pictorialism" of a fairly conventional, objective nature (though exquisitely wrought).[120]

Early works
The young Mendelssohn was greatly influenced in his childhood by the music of both J. S. Bach and C. P. E. Bach, and of
Beethoven, Joseph Haydn and Mozart; traces of these composers can be seen in the 12 early string symphonies. These
were written from 1821 to 1823, when he was between the ages of 12 and 14, principally for performance in the
Mendelssohn household, and not published or publicly performed until long after his death.[121][122] 10/25
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His first published works were his three piano quartets (1822–1825; Op. 1 in C minor, Op. 2 in F minor and Op. 3 in B
minor);[123] but his capacities are especially revealed in a group of works of his early maturity: the String Octet (1825), the
Overture A Midsummer Night's Dream (1826), which in its finished form also owes much to the influence of Adolf
Bernhard Marx, at the time a close friend of Mendelssohn, and the two early string quartets: Op. 12 (1829) and Op. 13
(1827), which both show a remarkable grasp of the techniques and ideas of Beethoven's last quartets that Mendelssohn
had been closely studying.[124] These four works show an intuitive command of form, harmony, counterpoint, colour, and
compositional technique, which in the opinion of R. Larry Todd justifies claims frequently made that Mendelssohn's
precocity exceeded even that of Mozart in its intellectual grasp.[125]

A 2009 survey by the BBC of 16 music critics opined that Mendelssohn was the greatest composing prodigy in the history
of Western classical music.[126]

Mendelssohn's mature symphonies are numbered approximately in the order
of publication, rather than the order in which they were composed. The order
of composition is: 1, 5, 4, 2, 3.[127] The placement of No. 3 in this sequence is
problematic because he worked on it for over a decade, starting the sketches
soon after he began work on No. 5 but completing it after both Nos. 5 and

The Symphony No. 1 in C minor for full orchestra was written in 1824, when
Mendelssohn was aged 15. This work is experimental, showing the influences
of Beethoven and Carl Maria von Weber.[129] Mendelssohn conducted the
symphony on his first visit to London in 1829, with the orchestra of the
Philharmonic Society. For the third movement he substituted an orchestration
of the Scherzo from his Octet. In this form the piece was a success, and laid the
foundations of his British reputation.[130]
Portrait of Mendelssohn by Wilhelm
Hensel, 1847
During 1829 and 1830 Mendelssohn wrote his Symphony No. 5, known as the
Reformation. It celebrated the 300th anniversary of the Reformation.
Mendelssohn remained dissatisfied with the work and did not allow
publication of the score.[131] The Scottish Symphony (Symphony No. 3 in A minor) was written and revised intermittently
between 1829 (when Mendelssohn noted down the opening theme during a visit to Holyrood Palace)[132] and 1842, when
it was given its premiere in Leipzig, the last of his symphonies to be premiered in public. This piece evokes Scotland's
atmosphere in the ethos of Romanticism, but does not employ any identified Scottish folk melodies.[133]

Mendelssohn's travels in Italy inspired him to compose the Symphony No. 4 in A major, known as the Italian Symphony.
He conducted the premiere in 1833, but did not allow the score to be published during his lifetime, as he continually
sought to rewrite it.[134] He wrote the symphony-cantata Lobgesang (Hymn of Praise) in B-flat major, posthumously
named Symphony No. 2, to mark the celebrations in Leipzig of the supposed 400th anniversary of the printing press by
Johannes Gutenberg; the first performance took place on 25 June 1840.[135]

Other orchestral music

Mendelssohn wrote the concert overture The Hebrides (Fingal's Cave) in 1830, inspired by visits to Scotland around the
end of the 1820s. He visited Fingal's Cave, on the Hebridean isle of Staffa, as part of his Grand Tour of Europe, and was so
impressed that he scribbled the opening theme of the overture on the spot, including it in a letter he wrote home the same 11/25
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evening.[136] He wrote other concert overtures,

notably Calm Sea and Prosperous Voyage
(Meeresstille und glückliche Fahrt, 1828),
inspired by a pair of poems by Goethe[137] and
The Fair Melusine (Die schöne Melusine)
(1830).[138] A contemporary writer considered Trumpet part, including main theme, of the Wedding March from
Mendelssohn's Op. 61
these works as "perhaps the most beautiful
overtures that, so far, we Germans possess".[139]

Mendelssohn also wrote in 1839 an overture to Ruy Blas, commissioned for a charity performance of Victor Hugo's drama
(which the composer hated).[140] His incidental music to A Midsummer Night's Dream (Op. 61), including the well-known
Wedding March, was written in 1843, seventeen years after the Overture.[141]

The Violin Concerto in E minor, Op. 64 (1844),
was written for Ferdinand David. David, who
had worked closely with Mendelssohn during
the piece's preparation, gave the premiere of the
concerto on his Guarneri violin.[142] Joseph
Joachim called it one of the four great violin
concertos along with those of Beethoven, Violin Concerto Op. 64, main theme of second movement
Brahms, and Bruch.[143]

Mendelssohn also wrote a lesser-known, early concerto for violin and strings in D minor (1822); four piano concertos ("no.
0" in A minor, 1822; 1 in G minor, 1831; 2 in D minor, 1837; and 3 in E minor, a posthumously published fragment from
1844); two concertos for two pianos and orchestra (E major, which he wrote at 15, and A-flat major, at 17); and another
double concerto, for violin and piano (1823). In addition, there are several single-movement works for soloist and
orchestra. Those for piano are the Rondo Brillante of 1834, the Capriccio Brillante of 1832, and the Serenade and Allegro
Giocoso of 1838.[127] He also wrote two concertinos (Konzertstücke), Op. 113 and 114, originally for clarinet, basset horn
and piano; Op. 113 was orchestrated by the composer.[144]

Chamber music
Mendelssohn's mature output contains numerous chamber works, many of which display an emotional intensity lacking in
some of his larger works. In particular, his String Quartet No. 6, the last of his string quartets and his last major work –
written following the death of his sister Fanny – is, in the opinion of the historian Peter Mercer-Taylor, exceptionally
powerful and eloquent.[145] Other mature works include two string quintets; sonatas for the clarinet, cello, viola and
violin; and two piano trios.[127] For the Piano Trio No. 1 in D minor, Mendelssohn uncharacteristically took the advice of
his fellow composer, Ferdinand Hiller, and rewrote the piano part in a more Romantic, "Schumannesque" style,
considerably heightening its effect.[146]

Piano music
The musicologist Glenn Stanley observes that "[u]nlike Brahms, unlike his contemporaries Schumann, Chopin and Liszt,
and unlike [his] revered past masters....Mendelssohn did not regard the piano as a preferred medium for his most
significant artistic statements".[147] Mendelssohn's Songs Without Words (Lieder ohne Worte), eight cycles each
containing six lyric pieces (two published posthumously), remain his most famous solo piano compositions. They became 12/25
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standard parlour recital items even during the composer's lifetime,[148] and
their overwhelming popularity, according to Todd, has itself caused many
critics to underrate their musical value.[149] As example, Charles Rosen
equivocally commented, despite noting "how much beautiful music they
contain", that "[i]t is not true that they are insipid, but they might as well
be."[150] During the 19th century, composers who were inspired to produce
similar pieces of their own included Charles-Valentin Alkan (his five sets of
Chants, each ending with a barcarole) and Anton Rubinstein.[151]

Other notable piano works by Mendelssohn include his Variations sérieuses,

Op. 54 (1841), the Rondo Capriccioso, the set of six Preludes and Fugues, Op.
35 (written between 1832 and 1837), and the Seven Characteristic Pieces, Op.
7 (1827).[127] Advertisement for the Organ
Sonatas in the Musical World, 24
July 1845
Organ music
Mendelssohn played and composed for organ from the age of 11 until his death.
His primary organ works are the Three Preludes and Fugues, Op. 37 (1837), and the Six Sonatas, Op. 65 (1845), of which
Eric Werner wrote "next to Bach's works, Mendelssohn's Organ Sonatas belong to the required repertory of all

Mendelssohn wrote some Singspiele for family performance in his youth. His opera Die beiden Neffen (The Two
Nephews) was rehearsed for him on his 15th birthday.[153] 1829 saw Die Heimkehr aus der Fremde (Son and Stranger or
Return of the Roamer), a comedy of mistaken identity written in honour of his parents' silver anniversary and
unpublished during his lifetime. In 1825 he wrote a more sophisticated work, Die Hochzeit des Camacho (Camacho's
Wedding), based on an episode in Don Quixote, for public consumption. It was produced in Berlin in 1827, but coolly
received. Mendelssohn left the theatre before the conclusion of the first performance, and subsequent performances were

Although he never abandoned the idea of composing a full opera, and considered many subjects – including that of the
Nibelung saga later adapted by Wagner, about which he corresponded with his sister Fanny[155] – he never wrote more
than a few pages of sketches for any project. In Mendelssohn's last years the opera manager Benjamin Lumley tried to
contract him to write an opera from Shakespeare's The Tempest on a libretto by Eugène Scribe, and even announced it as
forthcoming in 1847, the year of Mendelssohn's death. The libretto was eventually set by Fromental Halévy.[156] At his
death Mendelssohn left some sketches for an opera on the story of the Lorelei.[157]

Choral works
Mendelssohn's two large biblical oratorios, St Paul in 1836 and Elijah in 1846, are greatly influenced by J. S. Bach. The
surviving fragments of an unfinished oratorio, Christus, consist of a recitative, a chorus "There Shall a Star Come out of
Jacob", and a male voice trio.[158]

Strikingly different is the more overtly Romantic Die erste Walpurgisnacht (The First Walpurgis Night), a setting for
chorus and orchestra of a ballad by Goethe describing pagan rituals of the Druids in the Harz mountains in the early days
of Christianity. This score has been seen by the scholar Heinz-Klaus Metzger as a "Jewish protest against the domination
of Christianity".[159] 13/25
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Mendelssohn wrote five settings from "The Book of Psalms" for chorus
and orchestra. Schumann opined in 1837 that his version of Psalm 42
was the "highest point that he [Mendelssohn] reached as a composer for
the church. Indeed the highest point recent church music has reached at

Mendelssohn also wrote many smaller-scale sacred works for

unaccompanied choir, such as a setting of Psalm 100, Jauchzet dem
Herrn, alle Welt, and for choir with organ. Most are written in or
translated into English. Among the most famous is Hear My Prayer,
whose second half contains "O for the Wings of a Dove", which became
Part of the overture to Elijah arranged by
often performed as a separate item. The piece is written for full choir,
Mendelssohn for piano duet (manuscript in
organ, and a treble or soprano soloist. Mendelssohn's biographer Todd the Library of Congress)
comments, "The very popularity of the anthem in England [...] later
exposed it to charges of superficiality from those contemptuous of
Victorian mores."[161]

A hymn tune Mendelssohn – an adaptation by William Hayman Cummings of a melody from Mendelssohn's cantata
Festgesang (Festive Hymn), a secular 1840s composition, which Mendelssohn felt unsuited to sacred music – has become
the standard tune for Charles Wesley's popular Christmas hymn "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing".[135]

Mendelssohn wrote many songs, both for solo voice and for duet, with piano. It has been asserted that from 1819 (when he
was 10) until his death there was "scarcely a single month in which he was not occupied with song composition".[162] Many
of these songs are simple, or slightly modified, strophic settings.[163] Some, such as his best-known song "Auf Flügeln des
Gesanges" ("On Wings of Song"), became popular.[164] The scholar Susan Youens comments "If [Mendelssohn]'s
emotional range in lied was narrower than Schubert's, that is hardly surprising: Schubert composed many more songs
than Mendelssohn across a wider spectrum", and whilst Schubert had a declared intent to modernize the song style of his
day, "[t]his was not Mendelssohn's mission."[165]

A number of songs written by Mendelssohn's sister Fanny originally appeared under her brother's name; this may have
been partly due to the prejudice of the family, and partly to her own retiring nature.[166]

During his lifetime, Mendelssohn became renowned as a keyboard performer, both on the piano and organ. One of his
obituarists noted: "First and chiefest we esteem his pianoforte-playing, with its amazing elasticity of touch, rapidity, and
power; next his scientific and vigorous organ playing [...] his triumphs on these instruments are fresh in public
recollection.[167] In his concerts and recitals Mendelssohn performed works by some of his German predecessors, notably
Carl Maria von Weber, Beethoven and J.S. Bach,[168] whose organ music he brought back into the repertoire "virtually

In private and public performances, Mendelssohn was celebrated for his improvisations. On one occasion in London,
when asked by the soprano Maria Malibran after a recital to extemporise, he improvised a piece which included the
melodies of all the songs she had sung. The music publisher Victor Novello, who was present, remarked "He has done 14/25
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some things that seem to me impossible, even after I have heard them done."[170] At another recital in 1837, where
Mendelssohn played the piano for a singer, Robert Schumann ignored the soprano and wrote "Mendelssohn accompanied
like a God."[171]

Mendelssohn was a noted conductor, both of his own works and of those by other composers. At his London debut in
1829, he was noted for his innovatory use of a baton (then a great novelty).[172] But his novelty also extended to taking
great care over tempo, dynamics and the orchestral players themselves – both rebuking them when they were recalcitrant
and praising them when they satisfied him.[173] It was his success while conducting at the Lower Rhine music festival of
1836 that led to him taking his first paid professional position as director at Düsseldorf. Among those appreciating
Mendelssohn's conducting was Hector Berlioz, who in 1843, invited to Leipzig, exchanged batons with Mendelssohn,
writing "When the Great Spirit sends us to hunt in the land of souls, may our warriors hang our tomahawks side by side at
the door of the council chamber".[174] At Leipzig, Mendelssohn led the Gewandhaus Orchestra to great heights; although
concentrating on the great composers of the past (already becoming canonised as the "classics") he also included new
music by Schumann, Berlioz, Gade and many others, as well as his own music.[175] One critic who was not impressed was
Richard Wagner; he accused Mendelssohn of using tempos in his performances of Beethoven symphonies that were far
too fast.[176]

Mendelssohn's interest in baroque music was not limited to the Bach St Matthew Passion which he had revived in 1829.
He was concerned in preparing and editing such music, whether for performance or for publication, to be as close as
possible to the original intentions of the composers, including wherever possible a close study of early editions and
manuscripts. This could lead him into conflict with publishers; for instance, his edition of Handel's oratorio Israel in
Egypt for the London Handel Society (1845) evoked an often contentious correspondence, with Mendelssohn refusing for
example to add dynamics where not given by Handel, or to add parts for trombones. Mendelssohn also edited a number of
Bach's works for organ, and apparently discussed with Robert Schumann the possibility of producing a complete Bach

Although Mendelssohn attributed great importance to musical education, and made a substantial commitment to the
Conservatoire he founded in Leipzig, he did not greatly enjoy teaching and took only a very few private pupils who he
believed had notable qualities.[178] Such students included the composer William Sterndale Bennett, the pianist Camille-
Marie Stamaty, the violinist and composer Julius Eichberg, and Walther von Goethe (grandson of the poet).[179] At the
Leipzig Conservatoire Mendelssohn taught classes in composition and ensemble playing.[180]

Reputation and legacy

The first century

In the immediate wake of Mendelssohn's death, he was mourned both in Germany and England. However, the
conservative strain in Mendelssohn, which set him apart from some of his more flamboyant contemporaries, bred a
corollary condescension amongst some of them toward his music. Mendelssohn's relations with Berlioz, Liszt and others 15/25
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had been uneasy and equivocal. Listeners who had raised questions about
Mendelssohn's talent included Heinrich Heine, who wrote in 1836 after hearing the
oratorio St. Paul that his work was

characterized by a great, strict, very serious seriousness, a determined,

almost importunate tendency to follow classical models, the finest,
cleverest calculation, sharp intelligence and, finally, complete lack of
naïveté. But is there in art any originality of genius without

Such criticism of Mendelssohn for his very ability – which could be characterised
negatively as facility – was taken to further lengths by Richard Wagner.
Mendelssohn's success, his popularity and his Jewish origins irked Wagner
sufficiently to damn Mendelssohn with faint praise, three years after his death, in an The reconstructed
anti-Jewish pamphlet Das Judenthum in der Musik:[184] Mendelssohn monument
near Leipzig's St. Thomas
[Mendelssohn] has shown us that a Jew may have the amplest store of Church, dedicated in
specific talents, may own the finest and most varied culture, the highest
and tenderest sense of honour – yet without all these pre-eminences
helping him, were it but one single time, to call forth in us that deep,
that heart-searching effect which we await from art [...] The washiness
and the whimsicality of our present musical style has been [...] pushed
to its utmost pitch by Mendelssohn's endeavour to speak out a vague,
an almost nugatory Content as interestingly and spiritedly as
possible.[185][n 14]

The philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche expressed consistent admiration for Mendelssohn's music, in contrast to his general
scorn for "Teutonic" Romanticism:

At any rate, the whole music of romanticism [e.g. Schumann and Wagner] ... was second-rate music from
the very start, and real musicians took little notice of it. Things were different with Felix Mendelssohn, that
halcyon master who, thanks to his easier, purer, happier soul, was quickly honoured and just as quickly
forgotten, as a lovely incident in German music.[186]

Some readers, however, have interpreted Nietzsche's characterization of Mendelssohn as a 'lovely incident' as

In the 20th century the Nazi regime and its Reichsmusikkammer cited Mendelssohn's Jewish origin in banning
performance and publication of his works, even asking Nazi-approved composers to rewrite incidental music for A
Midsummer Night's Dream (Carl Orff obliged).[188] Under the Nazis, "Mendelssohn was presented as a dangerous
'accident' of music history, who played a decisive role in rendering German music in the 19th century 'degenerate'."[189]
The German Mendelssohn Scholarship for students at the Leipzig Conservatoire was discontinued in 1934 (and not
revived until 1963). The monument dedicated to Mendelssohn erected in Leipzig in 1892 was removed by the Nazis in 16/25
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1936. A replacement was erected in 2008.[181] The bronze statue of Mendelssohn by Clemens Buscher (1855–1916) outside
the Düsseldorf Opera House was also removed and destroyed by the Nazis in 1936. A replacement was erected in 2012.
Mendelssohn's grave remained unmolested during the National Socialist years.[190][191]

Mendelssohn's reputation in Britain remained high throughout the 19th century. Prince Albert inscribed (in German) a
libretto for the oratorio Elijah in 1847: "To the noble artist who, surrounded by the Baal-worship of false art, has been
able, like a second Elijah, through genius and study, to remain true to the service of true art."[192] In 1851 an adulatory
novel by the teenaged Elizabeth Sara Sheppard was published, Charles Auchester.[193] The book features as its leading
character the "Chevalier Seraphel", an idealized portrait of Mendelssohn, and remained in print for nearly 80 years.[194] In
1854 Queen Victoria requested that the Crystal Palace include a statue of Mendelssohn when it was rebuilt.[n 15]

Mendelssohn's "Wedding March" from A Midsummer Night's Dream was played at the wedding of Queen Victoria's
daughter, Princess Victoria, The Princess Royal, to Crown Prince Frederick of Prussia in 1858, and it remains popular at
marriage ceremonies.[196] Mendelssohn's pupil Sterndale Bennett was a major force in British musical education until his
death in 1875, and a great upholder of his master's traditions; he numbered among his pupils many of the next generation
of English composers, including Sullivan, Hubert Parry and Francis Edward Bache.[197]

By the early twentieth century, many critics, including Bernard Shaw, began to condemn Mendelssohn's music for its
association with Victorian cultural insularity; Shaw in particular complained of the composer's "kid-glove gentility, his
conventional sentimentality, and his despicable oratorio-mongering".[198] In the 1950s the scholar Wilfrid Mellers
complained of Mendelssohn's "spurious religiosity which reflected the element of unconscious humbug in our
morality".[199] A contrasting opinion came from the pianist and composer Ferruccio Busoni, who considered Mendelssohn
"a master of undisputed greatness" and "an heir of Mozart".[200] Busoni, like earlier virtuosi such as Anton Rubinstein[201]
and Charles-Valentin Alkan,[202] regularly included Mendelssohn's piano works in his recitals.

Modern opinions
Appreciation of Mendelssohn's work has developed over the last 50 years,
together with the publication of a number of biographies placing his
achievements in context.[203] Mercer-Taylor comments on the irony that "this
broad-based reevaluation of Mendelssohn's music is made possible, in part, by
a general disintegration of the idea of a musical canon", an idea which
Mendelssohn "as a conductor, pianist and scholar" had done so much to
establish.[204] The critic H. L. Mencken concluded that, if Mendelssohn indeed
missed true greatness, he missed it "by a hair".[205]

Charles Rosen, in a chapter on Mendelssohn in his 1995 book The Romantic

Generation, both praises and criticizes the composer. He calls him "the
greatest child prodigy the history of Western music has ever known", whose
command at age 16 surpassed that of Mozart or Chopin at 19, the possessor at
an early age of a "control of large-scale structure unsurpassed by any composer
Felix Mendelssohn by Friedrich of his generation", and a "genius" with a "profound" comprehension of
Wilhelm Schadow, 1834
Beethoven. Rosen believes that in the composer's later years, without losing his
craft or genius, he "renounced ... his daring"; but he calls Mendelssohn's
relatively late Violin Concerto in E minor "the most successful synthesis of the Classical concerto tradition and the
Romantic virtuoso form". Rosen considers the "Fugue in E minor" (later included in Mendelssohn's Op. 35 for piano) a 17/25
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"masterpiece"; but in the same paragraph calls Mendelssohn "the inventor of religious kitsch in music". Nevertheless, he
points out how the dramatic power of "the juncture of religion and music" in Mendelssohn's oratorios is reflected
throughout the music of the next fifty years in the operas of Meyerbeer and Giuseppe Verdi and in Wagner's Parsifal.[206]

A large portion of Mendelssohn's 750 works still remained unpublished in the 1960s, but most of them have now been
made available.[207] A scholarly edition of Mendelssohn's complete works and correspondence is in preparation but is
expected to take many years to complete, and will be in excess of 150 volumes. This includes a modern and fully
researched catalogue of his works, the Mendelssohn-Werkverzeichnis (MWV).[208] Mendelssohn's oeuvre has been
explored more deeply.[n 16] Recordings of virtually all of Mendelssohn's published works are now available, and his works
are frequently heard in the concert hall and on broadcasts.[209] R. Larry Todd noted in 2007, in the context of the
impending bicentenary of Mendelssohn's birth, "the intensifying revival of the composer's music over the past few
decades", and that "his image has been largely rehabilitated, as musicians and scholars have returned to this paradoxically
familiar but unfamiliar European classical composer, and have begun viewing him from new perspectives."[210]

Notes and references


1. German: [ˈjaːkɔp ˈluːtvɪç ˈfeːlɪks ˈmɛndl̩ szoːn baʁˈtɔldi]

2. The overwhelming majority of printed sources in English (e.g. see sources in references, and listings of recordings at and elsewhere), use the form "Mendelssohn" and not "Mendelssohn Bartholdy". The Grove Dictionary
of Music and Musicians gives "(Jakob Ludwig) Felix Mendelssohn(-Bartholdy)" (note the parentheses) as the entry
title, with "Mendelssohn" used in the body text. In German and some other languages the surname "Mendelssohn
Bartholdy" (sometimes hyphenated) is generally used.
3. When founded in 1843 this institution was officially known as the "Leipziger Konservatorium der Musik".[1] English-
language Mendelssohn authorities, for example R. Larry Todd and Erich Werner, refer to it as the Leipzig
4. Since 1806 Hamburg had been an independent city, the Free Imperial City of Hamburg; it was annexed to the First
French Empire by Napoleon in 1810.
5. The translation was reprinted by Giovanni Mardersteig at the Officina Bodoni in 1971.[36]
6. After Bach's death in 1750, the Passion had been performed a few times until about 1800 by Bach's successors as
Thomaskantor in Leipzig.[42]
7. In 1842 Mendelssohn was awarded by the King the honour Pour le Mérite for Sciences and Arts.[58]
8. In its own English self-designation, the "Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy University of Music and Theatre" (HMT website
(, accessed 6 November 2017.)
9. On this occasion, when Bennett was 17 and Mendelssohn 24, Mendelssohn immediately invited Bennett to visit him
in Germany. " 'If I come', said Bennett, 'may I come to be your pupil?' 'No, no', was the reply 'you must come to be my
friend.' “[67]
10. One assessment of the type of stroke from which the Mendelssohn family suffered is subarachnoidal
11. His friend the cleric Julius Schubring noted that although Mendelssohn "entertained a feeling of affectionate
reverence" for his spiritual adviser, the pastor Friedrich Philipp Wilmsen (1770–1831) at the Reformed Parochial
Church, "it is true that he did not go very often to hear him perform Divine Service".[87]
12. The debate became heated when it was discovered that the Mendelssohn scholar, Eric Werner, had been over-
enthusiastic in his interpretation of some documentation in an attempt to establish Felix's Jewish sympathies. See
The Musical Quarterly, vols. 82–83 (1998), with articles by J. Sposato, Leon Botstein and others, for expressions of
both points of view; and see Conway (2012)[91] for a tertium quid. 18/25
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13. Mercer-Taylor wrote that although there was no currently available hard evidence of a physical affair between the two,
"absence of evidence is not evidence of absence".[104] Clive Brown wrote that "it has been rumoured that [...] papers
tend to substantiate the notion of an affair between Mendelssohn and Lind, though with what degree of reliability must
remain highly questionable".[105]
14. Echoes of such views survive today in critiques of Mendelssohn's alleged mediocrity. For a modern example see
Damian Thompson, "Why did Mendelssohn lose his mojo?" (, Daily Telegraph 11
November 2010, retrieved 25 September 2017).
15. It was the only statue in the Palace made of bronze and the only one to survive the 1936 fire that destroyed the
Palace. The statue is now situated in Eltham College, London.[195]
16. See, for example, the conference "Viewing Mendelssohn, Viewing Elijah" (
ault/files/mendelssohn-program.pdf) held at Arizona State University in 2009 to mark the composer's bicentenary.
Retrieved 12 December 2017.


1. "Geschichte der Hochschule" (https://www.hmt-leipzig. 28. Conway 2012, p. 242.

de/de/home/hochschule/geschichte_hmt), (in German), 29. Brown 2003, p. 80.
website of the Hochschule für Musik und Theater Felix
30. "Kennedy Center notes" (
Mendelssohn Bartholdy, Leipzig, retrieved 26 January
2. Todd 2003, pp. 450–451. 3182). 17 February 2011.
3. Werner 1963, pp. 385–389. Archived from the original (http://www.kennedy-center.
4. Conway 2012, p. 194. org/calendar/index.cfm?fuseaction=composition&comp
osition_id=3182) on 16 June 2013. Retrieved
5. Conway 2012, pp. 147–148.
17 December 2017.
6. Todd 2003, p. 33.
31. Grove Music Online, “Overture” §3
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187. Grove Music Online, “Mendelssohn, Felix”', §14
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188. "Music and the Holocaust: Carl Orff" (http://holocaustm
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189. Hansen & Vogt (2009), cited on web page of Martin 200. Andrew Porter, Liner notes to Walter Gieseking's
Luther Memorial Church, Eisenach (http://www.mlgk.d recording of Mendelssohn's Songs without Words,
e/veranstaltungen/bloodandspirit.html) Archived (http Angel 35428.
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9s-statue-returns-d%C3%BCsseldorf). Classical- 206. Rosen 1995, pp. 569–598. (BBC Music Magazine). Retrieved 207. (
20 December 2017. sohn-bartholdy/werkverzeichnis/)Mendelssohn
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s:// Chicago: 208. Official site (
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194. Conway 2012, p. 257. German). Retrieved 16 December 2017.

195. Eatock 2009, p. 120. 209. For example, five of his works feature in the British
radio station Classic FM's 2017 top 300 (http://www.hal
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Barenboim, Lev Aronovich (1962). Anton Grigorevich Rubinstein (in Russian) (2 vols. ed.). Leningrad: State Musical
Publishing House. OCLC 16655013 (
Barr, John (1978). The Officina Bodoni, Montagnola, Verona: Books Printed By Giovanni Mardersteig on the Hand
Press, 1923–1977. London: The British Library. ISBN 978-0-7141-0398-3.
Bennett, J.R. Sterndale (1907). The Life of Sterndale Bennett. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
OCLC 59807054 (
Biddlecombe, George (2013). "Secret Letters and a Missing Memorandum: New Light on the Personal Relationship
between Felix Mendelssohn and Jenny Lind". Journal of the Royal Musical Association. 138 (1): 47–83.
Brown, Clive (2003). A Portrait of Mendelssohn. New Haven and London: Yale University Press. ISBN 978-0-300-
Chorley, Henry (1972). Thirty Years' Musical Recollections. New York: Vienna House. ISBN 978-0-8443-0026-9.
Edited by Ernest Newman.
Conway, David (2009). " "Short, Dark and Jewish-Looking": Felix Mendelssohn in Britain" (
avidConway/Papers/81528/Short_Dark_and_Jewish-Looking_Felix_Mendelssohn_in_Britain). In Massil, Stephen.
The Jewish Year Book 2009. Valentine and Mitchell. ISBN 978-0-85303-890-0. Retrieved December 2, 2017.
Conway, David (2012). Jewry in Music: Entry to the Profession from the Enlightenment to Richard Wagner.
Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-1-107-01538-8.
Devrient, Eduard (1869). My Recollections of Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy. London: Richard Bentley.
OCLC 251991611 ( Translated by N. MacFarren. 22/25
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Duggan, Audrey (1998). A Sense of Occasion: Mendelssohn in Birmingham 1846. Studley: Brewin Books. ISBN 978-
Eatock, Colin (2009). Mendelssohn and Victorian England. Farnham, Surrey: Ashgate. ISBN 978-0-7546-6652-3.
Emmett, William (1996). The national and religious song reader. New York: Haworth Press. ISBN 978-0-7890-0099-6.
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(online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/2131 (
(Subscription or UK public library membership ( required.)
Garratt, James (2004). "Mendelssohn and the Rise of Musical Historicism". In Mercer-Taylor, Peter. The Cambridge
Companion to Mendelssohn. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. pp. 55–70. ISBN 978-0521533423.
Articles in Grove Music Online (subscription required):

Todd, R. Larry (2001). "Mendelssohn, Felix" ( In

Deane Root. Grove Music Online. Oxford University Press.
Temperley, Nicholas (2008). "Overture" ( In Deane
Root. Grove Music Online. Oxford University Press.
Daverio, John; Eric Sams (2001). "Schumann, Robert" (
4). In Deane Root. Grove Music Online. Oxford University Press.
Hansen, Jörg; Vogt, Gerald (2009). "Blut und Geist": Bach, Mendelssohn und ihre Musik im Dritten Reich. Eisenach:
Bachhaus Eisenach. ISBN 978-3932257063.
Hensel, Sebastian (1884). The Mendelssohn Family (4th revised ed.). London: Sampson Low and Co.
OCLC 655604542 ( 2 volumes. Edited by Felix's nephew, an important
collection of letters and documents about the family.
Hiller, Ferdinand (1874). Mendelssohn: Letters and Recollections. London: MacMillan and Co. OCLC 1019332582 (htt
ps:// Translated by M.E. von Glehn.
Locke, Ralph P. (1986). Music, Musicians and the Saint-Simonians. Chicago and London: University of Chicago
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Mellers, Wilfrid (1957). Romanticism and the Twentieth Century. London. OCLC 869299807 (https://www.worldcat.or
Mendelssohn, Felix (1888). Letters of Felix Mendelssohn to Ignaz and Charlotte Moscheles. London and Boston.
OCLC 61618461 ( Edited by F. Moscheles
Mendelssohn, Felix (1986). Felix Mendelssohn, A Life in Letters. New York. ISBN 978-0-88064-060-2. Edited by R.
Elvers, translated by C. Tomlinson.
Mercer-Taylor, Peter (2000). The Life of Mendelssohn. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-
Mercer-Taylor, Peter (editor) (2004). The Cambridge Companion to Mendelssohn. Cambridge Companions to Music.
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and Blackett. OCLC 185148728 (
Nietzsche, Friedrich (2002). Beyond Good and Evil. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-77078-
1. Translated by Rolf-Peter Horstmann and Judith Norman.
Rosen, Charles (1995). The Romantic Generation. Harvard. ISBN 978-0-674-77933-4.
Sanders, L.G.D. (1956). "Jenny Lind, Sullivan and the Mendelssohn Scholarship". Musical Times. 97 (1363): 466–
Schoeps, Julius S. (2009). Das Erbe der Mendelssohns (in German). Frankfurt: S. Fischer Verlag. ISBN 978-3-10-
Smith, Ronald (2000). Alkan: The man, the music. London: Kahn & Averill. ISBN 978-1-871082-73-9.
Spitta, Philipp (1972). Johann Sebastian Bach (3 vols.). Translated by Bell, Clara; Fuller-Maitland, J.A. New York:
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Stanley, Glenn (2004). "The music for keyboard". In Mercer-Taylor, Peter. The Cambridge Companion to
Mendelssohn. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. pp. 189–205. ISBN 978-0521533423.
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Sterndale Bennett, R. (1955). "The Death of Mendelssohn". Music and Letters. 36 (4).
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Todd, R. Larry (editor) (1991). Mendelssohn and his World. Princeton. ISBN 978-0-691-02715-9.
Todd, R. Larry (2003). Mendelssohn – A Life in Music. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-
Todd, R. Larry (2007). Mendelssohn Essays. New York and London: Routledge Taylor and Francis Group. ISBN 978-
Vitercik, Greg (2004). "Mendelssohn as Progressive". In Mercer-Taylor, Peter. The Cambridge Companion to
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Further reading
There are numerous published editions and selections of Mendelssohn's letters.

The main collections of Mendelssohn's original musical autographs and letters are to be found in the Bodleian Library,
Oxford University, the New York Public Library, and the Staatsbibliothek in Berlin. The autographs of his letters to
Moscheles ( are in Special Collections at Brotherton Library,
University of Leeds.

External links

Works by Felix Mendelssohn (,+Felix) at Project Gutenberg, Works by
Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy (,+Felix) at Project Gutenberg
(Both these relate to Felix Mendelssohn, but the Gutenberg system lists him under both names).
Works by or about Felix Mendelssohn (
7%22%20AND%20Mendelssohn%29%29%20AND%20%28-mediatype:software%29) at Internet Archive
Felix Mendelssohn ( at the Musopen project
Leipzig Edition of the Works by Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy (
usgabe-der-werke-von-felix-mendelssohn-bartholdy) edited by the Sächsische Akademie der Wissenschaften zu
Leipzig (in German) Information about the ongoing complete edition.
Texts and translations of vocal music by Mendelssohn (
34) at The LiederNet Archive ( 24/25
4/6/2019 Felix Mendelssohn - Wikipedia

Complete Edition: Leipzig Edition of the Letters of Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy (
b/index.php?main=institut&sub=briefausgabe) (in German) Information about the ongoing complete edition.
The Mendelssohn Project ( A project with the objective of "recording of the
complete published and unpublished works of Felix and Fanny Mendelssohn"
A Renaissance Man Among the Romantics: Felix Mendelssohn at 200 (
endelssohn/mendelssohn.htm) A virtual exhibit of Mendelssohn manuscripts and early editions held at the Irving S.
Gilmore Music Library, Yale University
"Discovering Mendelssohn" ( BBC Radio 3.
Mendelssohn in Scotland (
Full text of Charles Auchester by Elizabeth Sheppard (1891 edition) (
pgoog/charlesaucheste02shepgoog_djvu.txt) (her novel with a hero based on Mendelssohn)
Archival material at Leeds University Library (

See articles on individual works for links to recordings

Music scores
Free scores by Felix Mendelssohn at the International Music Score Library Project (IMSLP)
The Mutopia Project has compositions by Felix Mendelssohn (
Free scores by Felix Mendelssohn in the Choral Public Domain Library (ChoralWiki)
Mendelssohn Bartholdy (

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