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Felix Mendelssohn (Bartholdy) (1809-1847)

Ronald Lewis - Composers Studio
Composers Studio
Ronald Lewis

Felix Mendelssohn was born in Hamburg, on February 3rd, 1809, the son of Leah Salomon, and Abraham Mendelssohn, a wealthy banker, and the grandson of Jewish rabbi and philosopher Moses Mendelssohn.  Being born in a family of well-to-do intellectuals certainly had its advantages, providing the ideal cultural environment for the artistic and precocious young Felix.  In addition to receiving a good education, Felix and his family traveled around Europe.+

While Moses Mendelssohn frowned on German Jews converting to Christianity in the hopes of gaining social acceptance outside their ghettos, that did not stop Felix Mendelssohn's parents from baptizing their  four children, Fanny, Rebekah, Felix, and Paul,  in the Lutheran Church, and from converting to the Lutheran faith themselves in 1816, when they moved from French occupied Hamburg to Berlin, hence the added surname Bartholdy.  Oddly enough, Felix resisted the name change, and kept the last name of Mendelssohn.

The move to Berlin proved to be beneficial for young Felix, who had received prior musical instruction from his sister Fanny, as it was there he studied the piano under Ludwig Berger and composition with Karl. F. Zelter.  Visiting friends of the family were also a positive influence on the Mendelssohn children, as most of them were intellectuals who were involved in the arts and other cultural activities.  From a young age, Felix Mendelssohn showed the true talent of a prodigy, playing both the piano and the violin, painting, and being gifted in languages.

Felix traveled to Paris to study the works of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Johann Sebastian Bach with his sister Fanny. Truly inspired by the masters, particularly Bach, he composed eleven symphonies, five operas, and many other pieces for the piano.  This was only the beginning for the young musical genius, who impressed audiences and artists alike with his precocious talent.

 

 

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Last modified: November 24, 2009