Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy

(3 February 1809, Hamburg - 4 November 1847, Leipzig)


Jakob Ludwig Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy was a German composer, pianist, organist, teacher and musical conductor of the early Romantic period. Born in a well educated family with great financial support (his father, Abraham Mendelssohn, was a banker), Felix's education as well as living conditions, were well provided by both of his parents. As Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart before him, Felix was regarded as a child prodigy. His mother gave him his first piano lessons when he was 6, one year later, he was tutored by Marie Bigot in Paris.

Following the French occupation of Hamburg, the whole family moved to Berlin. Here, little Felix resumed his piano lessons with Ludwig Berger, a former student of Muzio Clementi. Around the same time he made his first public appearance (1818). Next year, May 1819 Felix and his sister Fanny, who was also musically gifted, studied counterpoint and composition with Carl Friedrich Zelter in Berlin. Zelter's musical tastes were conservative, he was a great admirer of Johann Sebastian Bach. This aspect played an important role in Felix Mendelssohn's musical tastes and future compositions. His fugues and chorales reflect a tonal clarity and use of counterpoint reminiscent of Johann Sebastian Bach, by whose music he was greatly influenced. Among his other influences, after a trip to Paris, where he took further piano lessons, it appears he became acquainted with the music of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

His early compositions include 5 operas, 11 symphonies for string orchestra, concerti, sonatas, and fugues. Most of these works were long preserved in manuscript in the Prussian State Library in Berlin but are believed to have been lost in World War II.