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Mendelssohn, Felix

German composer Felix Mendelssohn finds himself at the center of this week's episode of Exploring Music. He has been hailed as one of the greatest musical minds of all time. We venture from his precocious youth to his early death. His great body of work is still in the repertories of chamber groups and orchestras. And it’s the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto that is loved by all.  The same love and devotion is true for his String Octet and Italian Symphony.

Program 1

Mendelssohn finds his voice at 15 with his piece, Overture for Wind Instruments in C Major.  Felix Mendelssohn is recognized widely for his piano performances, his conducting and compositions. In fear of Napoleon's accusations of betrayal, Abraham Mendelssohn moved to Berlin with his wife and young children, one of whom was Felix. After the move, Abraham played a significant role in the inception of Felix's compositional career, as an intensive homeschooling parent. Mendelssohn idolized Bach, and began to make what would become his very own music, famous by the age of 16.

Mendelssohn: Concerto for Violin and Orchestra in E minor, Op. 64 (excerpts)
Concertgebouw/Haitink; Perlman, v.
EMI 69863

Mendelssohn: String Symphony No. 3 in E Minor, I
English String Orchestra/Boughton
Nimbus 5141

Mendelssohn: Symphony No. 1 in C Minor, Op. 11, III
DG 445596

Mendelssohn: Overture for Wind Instruments in C Major
DG 423104

Mendelssohn: Octet for Strings, I
Guarneri & Orion String Quartets
Arab 6714

Mendelssohn: Overture fr. A Midsummer Night’s Dream
Berlin Phil/Abbado
Sony 62826

Mendelssohn: No. 2 from Seven Character-istic Pieces for Piano, Op. 7
Jones, p.
Nimbus 5074

Program 2

Mendelssohn experiences his first failure that sends him running from the concert hall, crying. Surrounded by the encouragement to venture onto the creation of an opera, the 16-year-old composer did so, but his conductor, Spontini, delivered a dry performance with an audience that became abuzz by the middle of the second act. So in order to divert his own attention, Mendelssohn dove into St. Matthew Passion from his idol, Bach, and he learned the piano part to accompany his singing friends in Berlin. Later, Mendelssohn traveled to London where he was accosted by a man accusing him of using Beethoven's ideas in his string quartet.

Mendelssohn: Octet for Strings, II
Guarneri & Orion String Quartets
Arab 6714

Bach: St. Matthew Passion (excerpt)
Decca 421 177

Mendelssohn: String Quartet in Eb Major, Op. 12, I
Julliard String Quartet
Sony 60579

Mendelssohn: Hebrides Overture, in B minor, Op. 26, “Fingal’s Cave”
Cleveland Orchestra/Szell
Sony 46536

Mendelssohn: Concerto for Piano and Orchestra No. 1 in G Minor
Academy of St. Martin in the Fields/Marriner; Perahia, p.
CBS 42401

Mendelssohn: Frühlingsglaube” & “Auf Flügeln des Gesanges”
Quasthoff, bar., Zeyen, p.
DG B0002192
1:43, 2:22

Program 3

Abraham Mendelssohn converts his family from Judaism to Protestantism after observing Napoleon's mobile activities, and even adopts a new last name for the family. Mendelssohn composes a Protestant Reformation symphony. However, Adolf Hitler notices this effort to avoid Judaism, although Mendelssohn was not simply avoiding it. Rather, he was beginning to truly understand Protestant beliefs. Hitler did not allow Mendelssohn's music to be played in Germany and had a Mendelssohn statue destroyed.

Mendelssohn: Quintet for Strings no 1 in A major, Op. 18, II
Sony 60766

Mendelssohn: Songs Without Words, Op. 19b (excerpt)
Gould, p.
Sony 52622

Mendelssohn: Symphony No. 5 in D major, Op. 107, Reformation, I (excerpt) & finale
DG 415353
:28, 9:04

Mendelssohn: Symphony No. 4 in A Major, Op. 90, Italian
Lon 436621

Program 4

Bill names many of the prominent composers Mendelssohn befriended, as well as the contracts Mendelssohn was offered and signed to conduct. Mendelssohn visits England and Scotland, where he is inspired to write his third symphony, the Scottish, though his symphonies are out of order, due to his repeated revisions.

Mendelssohn: St. Paul (excerpts)
Leipzig Radio Chorus & Gewandhaus Orchestra/Masur
Phil 420212

Mendelssohn: Trio for Piano and Strings No. 1 in D minor, Op. 49, I
Schneider, v.; Casals, vc.; Horszowski, p.
Sony 66571

Mendelssohn: Symphony No. 3, Scottish, I & II
Lon 436621

Mendelssohn: Scherzo fr. A Midsummer Night’s Dream
Berlin Phil/Abbado
Sony 62826

Mendelssohn: Symphony No. 3, Scottish, III (edited excerpts)
Lon 436621

Program 5

Mendelssohn continues to travel and conduct, and he plays for Queen Victoria who proves to him her gratitude, with a beautiful ring. Mendelssohn becomes an international figure, and is even accompanied by W.F.E. Bach at the erection of a monument dedicated to Johann Sebastian Bach. The great composer completes the oratorio, Elijah, which regards a search for truth. Mendelssohn learns of his sister's death upon his arrival in Frankfurt, and writes a slow, angular piece, the String Quartet in F Minor, Op. 80

Mendelssohn: Concerto for Violin and Orchestra in E Minor, Op. 64
Concertgebouw/Haitink; Perlman, v.
EMI 69863

Mendelssohn: Elijah (excerpts)
London Symphony/Hickox
Chan 8774

Mendelssohn: String Quartet in F Minor, Op. 80 (excerpts)
Ysaye Quartet
Lon 436325
1:42, 1:00, 1:09

Mendelssohn: Nocturne & Finale fr. A Midsummer Night’s Dream
Berlin Phil/Abbado; Branagh, n.
Sony 62826


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