Full Name: Jakob Ludwig Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy (!)
Years active: 1809-1847
Number of compositions: 121
Number of symphonies: 5
Number of concertos: 7
Number of string quartets: 6
Style: Playful, usually cheerful and energetic, but still fairly conservative Romantic music. Although Mendelssohn was definitely a Romantic composer, he perhaps took more after Mozart than Beethoven. His music doesn’t have the same degree of emotional baggage as most of the other Romantic composers (Wagner, Brahms, Tchaikovsky, etc.)
He sounds like Mozart? Not exactly, but there are lots of similarities. They both had a fairly bright and cheerful attitude to their music, especially compared to the serious grandeur of Beethoven. They both have a an elegant, clean-cut feel. On the other hand, Mendelssohn had more interesting, and more modern instruments at his disposal (which hadn’t been invented in Mozart’s time), and had the freedom to explore less rigid techniques for composing his pieces (which was now the trend in the Romantic era).
In fact the similarities to Mozart extend past their musical lives. They were both child prodigies, and both had an exceptionally early death, Mendelssohn dying aged 38, and Mozart at 35.
Violin Concerto, 1st movement
The violin concerto is probably Mendelssohn’s mostly popular work, in fact it has become one of the most popular works for violin by any composer.
The Hebrides Overture
This was inspired by a visit to Fingals’ Cave in Scotland. His musical representation of the waxing and waning of the waves is beautiful.
This piece is called a set of variations, because there is a melody which keeps getting repeated. Every time it is repeated it is altered slightly in style, accompaniment, intensity and emotion.
Symphony No. 4 “The Italian”, 4th Movement
This is the second of Mendelssohn’s symphonies named after countries (with the other being the “Scottish”) I love the rhythms in this, which are based on an old Italian dance called the Salterello featuring “peculiar leaping motions”. Sounds awesome!