The Kennedy Center

Felix Mendelssohn


Born in Hamburg, Germany 3 February 1809, Felix Mendelssohn was part of a privileged family. With an art-loving father, a mother who read Plato, a grandfather known as a philosopher and a sister who composed music, the household was a meeting place for wit and culture allowing Felix to develop his talent. Encouraged by those around him, his first public performance as a pianist at the age of 9 and first masterpiece, an overture to Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream at 17, were just the beginning.

Mendelssohn dedicated his young life promoting classical traditions of music. The revival of Bach can be attributed to Felix Mendelssohn. At 20 years old, he conducted the first performance of St. Mathew Passion since the artist’s death eighty years prior.

In October of 1830, he began an extensive tour of Italy. His “Italian” symphony was inspired by the wonders Mendelssohn experienced on his journey. Upon his return he became a conductor and organized the Leipzig Conservatory. Other journeys included England and Scotland. Mendelssohn was a favorite composer of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert.

The collection known as Lieder ohne Wort (Songs Without Words) consisting of forty-eight short piano pieces composed for amateur pianists, wanting music of good quality that could be played at home, would be one of his last contributions to the world. In May of 1847, his sister Fanny died. Mendelssohn fell into such tragic depression, his own death followed a few months later. At the age of 38, the music world lost an outstanding conductor and inventive musical talent.
Felix Mendelssohn


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