GERMAN COMPOSER, CONDUCTOR, PIANIST
Felix Mendelssohn, born Jakob Ludwig Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy on the 3rd of February 1809 in the city of Hamburg, Germany, was the son of the banker, Abraham Mendelssohn. He was also the grandson of Moses Mendelssohn, a prominent German-Jewish philosopher. His mother, Lea Salomon, was a sister of the Prussian diplomat Jakob Salomon Bartholdy and also a member of the prominent German-Jewish Itzig family.
Despite his parents’ affiliations, however, the young Mendelssohn was largely raised without religion until he was baptized at seven years old. As the second of four children, he and his sister Fanny both displayed tremendous talent in music.
Abraham and Lea Mendelssohn wanted to give their children the best education possible, and they set off to do just that. Felix’s older sister Fanny would go on to become a well-known pianist in Berlin. It was actually her that the elder Mendelssohn thought would be the most musical instead of Felix. But since she was a woman, it wasn’t not considered proper for her to pursue a musical career. Felix, on the other hand, would show his father his dedication to the craft, which would be clear to Abraham.
In Berlin, Mendelssohn studied the piano under Ludwig Berger and composition under the composer and conductor Carl Friedrich Zelter. It was he who exerted a massive influence on the young boy’s development. By then, it would also be clear that Mendelssohn was some sort of a polymath: he would also excel in literature and landscape painting, showing that he has a broad knowledge of the arts. He would take additional piano lessons in Paris, traveling there with his sister. This is also where it is assumed that he first got acquainted with the music of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.
While in Paris in 1825, the composer Luigi Cherubini would notice Mendelssohn’s musical genius. A year later, he would be considered a full-fledged composer with his Overture to A Midsummer Night’s Dream. It was the composition’s fresh lyrical melodies and atmospheric effects that would reveal how amazing he is as a composer to the world. This would be among his greatest claims to fame.
By the 1840s, his stature in the music world was massive. In 1843, he would establish a major music school that still exists today: the prestigious Leipzig Conservatory, where a good number of history’s classical composers themselves studied.
Suffering from generally poor health during his final years, Mendelssohn dealt with a lot of things: nervous problems and overworking among them. The death of his sister, Fanny, on the 14th of May 1847, would only make things worse. A few months later, on the 4th of November, Mendelssohn would die after several strokes.
Did You Know?
Owing to his education, Mendelssohn was also a gifted illustrator and painter. He enjoyed working in pencil and watercolor.
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