Felix Mendelssohn was one of the most famous composers during the 19th century. Although in his music he did show some features of romanticism, he was strongly influenced by traditional genres such as counterpoint etc. In this essay, the biography of the composer, background of the genre and analysis of the piece will be investigated
Biographical Sketch of Mendelssohn
Mendelssohn was born in Hamburg in 1809. His father Abraham Mendelssohn was a banker, while his mum Lea Mendelssohn was a highly educated artist and musician. Mendelssohn first had his piano lesson from his mum, but soon he was sent to study with the best teachers at that time such as Marie Bigot and Ludwig Burger. He also took composition lessons with Karl Zelter, who was the professor of the University of Berlin. Under their proper guidance, he completely showed his music talent- he first appeared as pianist at nine and as a composer at ten. At his age of twelve, he already composed nine fugues, five symphonies for strings, two operas and a huge number of smaller pieces. When he was sixteen, the publication of his Octet in E-flat Major for strings and Overture to A Mid Summer Night’s Dream marked his full maturity.
In 1829, he left his hometown and started his music tour to Italy, France and England. During this period of time, he published many significant compositions, which included the overture Die Hebriden (1829), the Reformation Symphony (1830) and the Italian Symphony (1832) etc.
Besides composing, he also worked as a conductor in Düsseldorf (1833-35) and Leipzig (1835-40). And in 1843, he established a new conservatory in Leipzig. Up to this point, Mendelssohn was already a well-known pianist, composer and conductor.
Unfortunately, exhausted from his great workload, he started having health problems, and his illness was getting more serious. After suffering from strokes, he finally passed away on 4th November 1847.
Background of the Work
The genre ‘symphony’ origins from the Greek word syn (‘together’) , and phōnē (‘sounding’). It was first used in the Middle Ages for motets. In the 17th century, it then referred to the introduction to different types of compositions such as operas, oratorios, sonatas and concertos etc. Until the 18th century, the standard three-movement structure (fast-slow-fast) was developed, and was widely adopted by composers throughout the Europe.
In the 19th century, symphony remained as an important genre, with the form got expanded to four movements, and was designed to be performed by large size orchestras. Moreover, composers also started introducing new instruments to their compositions. For instance, in the final movement of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9, piccolo, contra-bassoon and triangle were adopted. This practice became much more common throughout the second half of the 20th century.
Among Mendelssohn’s published symphonies, the most well-known are probably the Italian Symphony, the Scottish Symphony, Hymn...