Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Felix Looks Good at 200

The light dusting of lake-effect snow that fell overnight did nothing to ward off another cold spell. I guess the groundhog meant business. The blustering winds helped to keep me either hunkered down in the practice studio or huddled up in a warm corner with a pile of books. After having difficulties focusing last week, I feel my attentions the past two days have become much less blurry, almost bordering on disciplined. Although I have not been feeling terribly creative or crafty, my bookworm senses have been tingling something fierce. It seems my creative juices have channeled into curiosity, inquiry, and exploration. Which may provide some reasoning for my inexplicable need to write the following brief "essay". I am well aware that my music nerd flag is flying high, but I just absolutely adore Mendelssohn.

Today marks the 200th birthday of Felix Mendelssohn, a truly remarkable composer, pianist, and conductor. Felix was a child prodigy performer and composer, and continued to be thoroughly prolific throughout his lifetime. His compositions include five symphonies, brilliant incidental music, oratorios, chamber music, violin concertos, choral works, and stunning works for piano. Compared to many of his 19th century musical contemporaries, Mendelssohn lived a fairly quiet and conventional life. Deeply distraught by the death of his beloved sister, Fanny, a prodigious musician as well, Felix's health declined. He died six months later at the age of 38.

With the rise of German antisemitism in the later half of the 19th century, Mendelssohn was posthumously assassinated by colleagues- most prominently by Richard Wagner in his pamphlet Das Judenthum in der Musik. The once popular and frequently performed works of Mendelssohn either all but disappeared from the concert repertoire or remained unpublished. It was not until recently that the works of Mendelssohn made a much deserved resurgence. For more on the unearthing of Mendelssohn, listen to this NPR story.

Kevin Kline is a saucy Bottom in Midsummer Nights Dream

Since Mendelssohn was such a diverse composer, I had a very difficult time picking a single excerpt that felt representative of his craft. So...I picked four. All of these beautiful, wonderfully crafted pieces have the power to make me feel like I can transcend time, and that I have been transported to another realm.

The Hebrides- Fingals Cave- a phenomenal trip through Scottish caves on the ocean coast
Violin Concerto, Movement I- performed by a 15 year-old Sarah Chang with the NY Philharmonic. Her green dress is worth the view.
A Midsummer Nights Dream, Overture- incidental music written by Mendelssohn in his teens.
Lieder ohne Worte- songs without words for the piano...simply lovely.

Thanks for reading my ├╝ber music geek post!
Merry Writings!

1 comment:

  1. I love the Midsummer Nights Dream Overture! It makes me think of fairies scurrying around in a thicket!

    As for the film--I loves me the Kevin Kline...but could do without the false eyelashes. He's a gorgey fella--but he ain't no David Bowie! Hehe!

    Thanks for sharing--I'm smarter now. :)