Mendelssohn: The Perfect Combination of Romance and Classicism

  200 years ago, the Mendelssohn-Bartodian family, a Jewish banker in Hamburg, Germany, gave birth to their second child, the future great composer, conductor and pianist Mendelssohn Filkes. The child won the reputation of “the best pianist” at the time for his outstanding piano performance in childhood, became a little famous pianist at the age of 9, and emerged as a composer at the age of 11. After 28 years of music career, the musician who died young (only 38 years old) was among the classic composers in the history of German music.
  Mendelssohn’s growth depended on his good education and favorable family environment in his childhood. He learned piano from his mother at the age of 4, and studied composition at the age of 9 under the tutelage of music educator, composer and chorus conductor Zelt (1758-1832). As early as 1811, Mendelssohn and his family moved to Berlin. At that time, the most prestigious scholars, such as the famous naturalist, geographer, Alexander Humboldt, honorary academician of the Petersburg Academy of Sciences in Russia, Hegel, the philosopher of ancient music, romantic Ernest Hoffmann, a writer, composer, and painter, as well as Weber, the founder of German Romantic opera and author of “Free Archer”, were frequent guests of Mendelssohn’s house. The subtle influence of these elites of science and art on the young Mendelssohn played a decisive role in Mendelssohn’s creative path. In particular, when Mendelssohn was 12 years old, he met Goethe, a great German writer who was over 12 years old, under the recommendation of his teacher Dierte, which had a more significant impact on the growth of the young Mendelssohn. Under the influence of these objective factors and good family education, Mendelssohn has long admired the great achievements of human thought and the tradition of ancient music in art. The works of classical composers such as Bach, Mozart and Beethoven are all examples of Mendelssohn’s worship. On the other hand, Mendelssohn was born intelligent and sensitive, so he could not be indifferent to the expressions of German Romanticism. The lyrical mood in Romanticism, the poetic feeling of nature, and the magical and fantasy characters in folk works made Mendelssohn Enthusiastic about it. Therefore, his best works exude romanticism, while maintaining the traditional form of obvious classicism. In addition, these excellent works are closely related to folk secular genres, especially songs, so they are loved and welcomed by contemporary people. Mendelssohn’s works also reflect the achievements of various national cultures that he learned from his travels in European countries, which not only makes his works widely welcomed by the people of other European countries, but also prompts Mendelssohn to vigorously carry out music enlightenment activities, because he He believes that it is his duty to develop an advanced German music culture. Mendelssohn did something of great historical significance in this regard: he conducted in Berlin in 1829 his beloved classical music master Bach’s famous “Matthew Passion”, thus making the work in 1729 After being silent for 100 years after the premiere, he was able to become active again on stages around the world, becoming a treasure in the world music scene. Bach’s other works have also been widely circulated since then (the reason for Bach’s obscurity when he was alive is said to be that he was rigid, stubborn, not good with people, and rarely toured during his lifetime. Never play abroad. And his work was published after his death).
  That is to say, from this year onwards, Mendelssohn actively carried out his music activities. In addition to the cities in his own country, Britain, Italy, France and other countries were his tour locations, so that the audiences in these countries knew that Germany had an excellent musician. Conductor, pianist and organist. Another takeaway is that his famous symphonies “Scottish Symphony”, “Italian Symphony”, “Fingal’s Cave” and the piano piece “Song of Spring” were all inspired by Mendelssohn’s travels abroad.
  The most historic moment in Mendelssohn’s musical career was his tenure as conductor of the famous Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra from 1836. Under his command, he played his own symphonic overture “Peaceful Sea and Happy Voyage”, Beethoven’s “Fourth Symphony”, “Ninth Symphony”, the English composer Handel (1686-1759) ) and a series of works by Bach. The most noteworthy is the performance of Schubert’s last work, “Symphony No. 9 in C major” (also known as the “Grand Symphony”), which is due to the fact that Schubert completed it in 1828. Unfortunately, he died of typhoid fever, and was discovered by Schumann 11 years later. It was only in March 1839 that he was conducted by Mendelssohn and premiered at the Gewandhaus concert. In 1841, at the invitation of King William IV of Prussia, Mendelssohn was appointed director of the Music Department of the Academy of Arts. In 1843, under Mendelssohn’s initiative, Germany’s first higher music school, the Leipzig Conservatory, was founded. Based on the academy, he united the best music educators at that time and promoted the development of German music vocational education. Under the influence of the Leipzig Conservatory of Music and based on it, a well-known German music and art school, headed by Mendelssohn, emerged at that time, the Leipzig School. As a result, Leipzig became one of the largest music centers in Europe at the time.
  Mendelssohn’s vast musical legacy spans almost all genres of musical art, but instrumental music dominates. The democratic tendencies in Mendelssohn’s work combine seamlessly with his preference for the classicist tradition of the 18th and early 19th centuries. . His music is rich in the melodious tunes of folk music and is easy to understand. It is portrayed with sincere images, delicate emotions, full of poetic and perfect taste. He does not pursue luxury that only cares about superficial effects, but strives for clarity, stability and harmony. of perfection. Therefore, Mendelssohn’s best works are all lively, full of fiery passion and exciting poetry. Sometimes melancholy and sadness are often revealed in his works, but tragic images, restless and rebellious images are rarely seen in Mendelssohn’s works, which is just as hard to see in his works. to the content of sharp conflict. Another unique expression of Mendelssohn’s musical image is the sarcasm with fantasy, but also elegance and humor. This creative feature had a great influence on other composers. Mendelssohn mastered the art of polyphony skillfully, and the free combination of conflicting polyphony can be seen in many of his works. Among his melodies, the most typical ones are sweet, romantic, lyrical, and flowing. Because Mendelssohn innovated the genre of polyphonic music with melodious tunes and achieved great success, polyphonic music can be reproduced with great splendor.
  Mendelssohn is one of the founders of the Romantic Symphony. At that time, the musical forms established by the Vienna Classical School were regarded by him as a model, but he did not follow the old traditions. For example, Mendelssohn made a dramatic treatment of the sonata form: on the premise of the general lyricism, the first theme and the second theme are made close to each other, and the connecting part is formed by the rapid development of the theme. The best of his five symphonies are the Italian Symphony (the Fourth Symphony) and the Scottish Symphony (the Third Symphony). The former was conceived by Mendelssohn during his sojourn in Italy in 1831 and written in 1833; These two works poetically depict the deep impression left by the local nature and folk customs on the composer.
  Mendelssohn pioneered a new genre of symphony – the title concerto overture, whose first masterpiece was the score for Shakespeare’s comedy A Midsummer Night’s Dream, whose overture was written when he was 17 years old ‘s creation. The melody of the music is brisk and beautiful, and the depiction is delicate, full of romantic atmosphere of fairy tale fantasy. Several of his famous symphonic overtures, such as “The Hebrides” (also known as “Ger’s Cave”) in 1832, “Calm Sea and Happy Voyage”, “Beautiful Melusina” in 1833 ” has a beautiful and picturesque description. As one of the founders of the romantic title symphony, Mendelssohn added epic, customary and lyrical descriptions to this symphony. In addition, the concerto also occupies an important position in his works. For example, the “Violin Concerto in E minor” written in 1844 is beautiful and lyrical, which is one of the early excellent examples of the romantic concerto. Two piano concertos written in 1831 and 1837 were also well received. When it comes to piano music, the most worth mentioning is Mendelssohn’s collection of 48 piano pieces composed between 1830 and 1845 “Songs Without Words” (or “Songs Without Words”). This is a lyrical, singing small instrumental music, and he is the pioneer of this genre. The 48 pieces of “Songs Without Words” are all piano pieces, the most famous of which are “Hunting Song”, “Venice Boat Song”, “Folk Ballad”, “Song of Spring”, “Spinning Song” and so on. After more than 170 years, “Songs Without Words” is still his most popular song. The characteristics of “Songs Without Words” are that it is very close to the secular vocal music, the image is very clear, the interpretation is concise, and the form is fresh. These characteristics also generalize to some extent in other works of Mendelssohn, including his larger works.
  In terms of chamber ensembles, the outstanding works include 7 string ensembles, 2 piano trios, and a string octet written in my youth. In addition, he also wrote some piano quartets, quintets, piano accompaniment violin sonatas, piano accompaniment cello sonatas, etc.
  Mendelssohn’s vocal works are also rich and varied, leaving immortal works from small pieces to large-scale oratorios, especially the oratorio “Saint Paul” written in 1836 and the oratorio “Ilia” written in 1846. It also reflects the social awakening of Germany on the eve of the bourgeois-democratic revolution that swept Europe in 1848-1849. In terms of style, it has obvious influence of the British-German composer Handel (1685-1759), but its lyrical image is unique. significance. So the oratorio won great honor for Mendelssohn not only in Germany but also in England. Mendelssohn also composed many small sacrificial choruses, such as hymns and scriptures, among which there are also a cappella choruses. Mendelssohn also contributed to the secular theme songs corresponding to religious music works, and there is a song called “The Night of Valipurgia” (also known as “The Banshee Maypole”) (the Banshee Maypole is an ancient The most famous is the hymn of the Spring Festival, which the Germans celebrate on May 1. This work is remarkable for its drama and passion. Many of Mendelssohn’s vocal ensembles and songs have romantic lyricism and democratic tendencies, and are closely related to secular music.
  Finally, let’s talk about Mendelssohn’s opera creation. Although Mendelssohn has been interested in opera since he was a boy, he began to write opera at the age of 10, but with the exception of the comic opera “Camacho Marriage” written in 1827, which was performed in 1929, some other opera works Unable to officially perform. He has explored suitable opera themes many times, and also adapted the works of the French playwright Scribe (1791-1861), but all have no end. This may be the reason why Mendelssohn is too demanding on opera scripts and restrains his creative inspiration. Although Mendelssohn did not have every handed down work in opera creation, he was an ancient Greek poet and playwright Sophocles (496-406 BC), French playwright Racine (1639-1699), The soundtracks of the plays by the great British writer Shakespeare and others are of great significance. Best known for his score for Shakespeare’s comedy A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Therefore, it can be said that Mendelssohn’s real opera works have no other works except his “Camacho Marriage” in his early years. However, the prelude to the theatrical soundtrack “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”, which he has a close relationship with, has become his brand. Mendelssohn comes to mind whenever one mentions Mendelssohn or mentions the Overture to A Midsummer Night’s Dream. For more than 100 years, this piece is still one of the common repertoires in concerts all over the world.
  Due to the superficial knowledge of the author’s music, it is inevitable to miss a million when introducing this outstanding composer in the world music scene. Therefore, at the end of this article, it is necessary to add some facts: Mendelssohn, as a romantic composer, seems to be inferior to those more radical and passionate romantic composers, such as Wagner in Germany, Liszt in Hungary , Because his creations appear calm and rational, some people call him “a calm classicist living in the surging romantic trend.” Violin Concerto in Minor, its classical artistic conception and poetic lyric style reflects the perfect combination of romanticism and classicism. Mendelssohn’s ability to rank among the masters of music, this outstanding concerto is also indispensable .
  The Leipzig School headed by Mendelssohn gradually developed academism over time, but his best works finally became the treasures of world classic music, and Mendelssohn also became one of the greatest musicians in the history of German music.