Musical Son of Germany

4 November marks the death of composer Felix Mendelssohn in 1847. A grandson of the philosopher Moses Mendelssohn, Felix Mendelssohn was born into a prominent Jewish family.

Like Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart before him, Mendelssohn was regarded as a child prodigy. He began taking piano lessons from his mother when he was six, and at seven was tutored by Marie Bigot in Paris. He made his first public concert appearance at the age of 9.

Mendelssohn was renowned during his lifetime as a keyboard performer, both on the piano and on the organ. In his concerts and recitals Mendelssohn performed both his own works and those of his predecessor German composers, notably works of Weber, Beethoven and (on the organ) J.S. Bach.

At the Leipzig Conservatoire, Mendelssohn taught classes in composition and ensemble playing.

His reputation and legacy suffered greatly due in part by a systematic campaign by the Nazis to banish and destroy his work. His creative originality has since been recognized and re-evaluated, making him one of the most admired composers of the Romantic era.

Mendelssohn’s travels in Italy inspired him to write the Symphony No. 4 in A major, known as the Italian Symphony. Mendelssohn conducted the premiere in 1833 and described it as “the merriest piece yet written”. The brief video clip below allows a sample of what he meant by that…