Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy
Composer, Pianist, Organist, Conductor
Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy’s musical gifts benefited from much support and encouragement during his early years. He received keyboard, harmony and counterpoint lessons, later on violin and viola lessons, from teachers of renown, among them the concert master Carl Wilhelm Henning. As early as 1820 symphonies for string-orchestras and chamber ensembles were emerging which deeply impressed, for example, Carl Maria von Weber. In 1826 he composed his overture to A Midsummer Night’s Dream, for which he became famous.
In 1829 his father sent him to England in order to complete his musical education; the result was a close association with England’s musical life – the reason for Mendelssohn Bartholdy’s other nine trips to England. His direction of the 15th Lower Rhine Musical Festival in Dusseldorf in 1833 was a great success, on the strength of which he made Musical Director of the City of Dusseldorf. On 1st September 1835 he moved to Leipzig, where he took over the direction of the famous Gewandhaus Orchestra. In 1841 he was appointed by Friedrich Wilhelm IV of Prussia to be General Music Director and director of the musical department of the Berlin Arts Academy. On account of disagreements with the King, he was dismissed in 1842.
The creation of a conservatory in Leipzig early in 1843 was the fulfillment of a long-cherished ambition. Soon Mendelssohn’s music school became one of the most respected in the whole of Germany. The enormous efforts which Mendelssohn was always willing to put into his work had repercussions for his health: in 1847 he resigned from directing the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra and retired from public life. He died in Leipzig on 3rd November 1847 after suffering a number of strokes. In the mid-nineteenth century Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy was accepted as Germany’s most important composer. His works epitomize the bourgeois musical life which had come into existence with the dissolution of the court system at the beginning of the nineteenth century. Besides his works on A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Mendelssohn Bartholdy planned to set Shakespeares The Tempest to music in both 1831 and 1847, but neither Karl Immermann’s Libretto nor that of Eugène Scribe seemed to him to be adequate, and he therefore abandoned the project. Also unfinished remained an opera based on Shakespeare’s Hamlet.
- Ouvertüre zu Shakespeare’s Sommernachtstraum, op. 21 [MS 1826, first performed: Schützenhaus Stettin, 20.02.1827].
- Ein Sommernachtstraum von Shakespeare, op. 61 [MS 1843, first performed privately in the Theater im neuen Palais Potsdam, 14.10.1843, first public performance: Schauspielhaus Königliche Schauspiele Berlin, 18.10.1843]. Text based on August Wilhelm Schlegel.
- Arfini, Maria Teresa: Felix Mendelssohn. Palermo, 2010.
- Felix-Mendelssohn-Bartholdy-Stiftung (ed.): Mendelssohn-Portal. Url: www.mendelssohn-stiftung.de.
- Gooch/Thatcher: Vol. I 3606, Vol. II 9618, 9619, Vol. III 15452.
- Jacob, Heinrich Eduard: Felix Mendelssohn und seine Zeit. Bildnis und Schicksal eines Meisters. Frankfurt a. M., 1959.
- Richter, Arnd: Mendelssohn. Leben – Werke – Dokumente. Zurich, 2000.
- Werner, Eric: Mendelssohn. Leben und Werk in neuer Sicht. Zurich, 1980.
Album pages with this person
Citation and Licence
Mendelssohn Bartholdy, Felix, in: The Digital Shakespeare Memorial Album. Edited by Christa Jansohn. URI: http://www.shakespearealbum.de/uri/gnd/118580779. (Accessed on 09.12.2022)
This text is published under the following licence: CC BY-ND 3.0 DE. Digitzed media reproduced with the permission of the library of Birmingham.