Among the works that ECMC will perform on our This Old House concert is Felix Mendelssohn's Periti autem fulgebunt, one of the Zwei geistliche Männerchöre (two sacred choruses for men’s choir) that comprise Mendelssohn's Op. 115. The 24-year old Mendelssohn reportedly composed the two choruses in one day in 1833. The choruses were commissioned by Johann Clarus, a Professor of Medicine in Leipzig.
Periti autem fulgebunt is a setting of Chapter 12, Verse 3 of the Book of Daniel, "And they that are wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever."
Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847)
Felix Mendelssohn was a child prodigy who grew to become not only a virtuoso pianist, but also a renowned composer, organist, conductor, and educator. Mendelssohn was born in Hamburg, Germany in 1809 to Jewish parents, who later adopted the surname Mendelssohn Bartholdy upon the family's conversion to Christianity. Mendelssohn’s grandfather was the philosopher Moses Mendelssohn.
Mendelssohn’s parents raised Felix and his three siblings in an intellectual environment, exposing them to music, poetry, and art. Both Felix and his older sister, Fanny, had their musical talents recognized at an early age. Like Felix, Fanny was acclaimed as both a performer and composer; however, because it was considered not proper for a woman to pursue a career in music, Fanny remained an amateur musician to her death. In recent years, Fanny Mendelssohn has begun to receive the recognition that she deserves.
Felix Mendelssohn gave his first public piano performance at the age of nine, and between the ages of 12 and 14, he composed twelve symphonies for string orchestra. At the age of 12, Felix was introduced to the poet Johan Wolfgang von Goethe, who compared Mendelssohn favorably to Mozart. At the age of 17, Mendelssohn composed his overture to A Midsummer Night’s Dream. 16 years passed before Mendelssohn composed the remaining incidental music to a Midsummer Night’s Dream, including the now famous wedding march, for a production of the Shakespeare play.
In 1829, Mendelssohn conducted the first performance of Bach’s St. Matthew Passion since Bach’s death. In 1833, Felix was appointed musical director in Dusseldorf, where he presided over church music, opera, and choral groups. He quit that post within six months to become the director of the Gewandhaus Orchestra in Leipzig, where he conducted concerts of music by Bach, Beethoven, Handel, Haydn, Mozart and Schubert. In 1843, Mendelssohn helped found the Leipzig Conservatory. Mendelssohn toured France, Italy, and England until the end of his short life. His last major composition was the oratorio Elijah, Op. 70, which was first performed in England in 1846.
Mendelssohn's sister Fanny died in May of 1847. The stress of his sister's death combined exhaustion from his final tour of England took a heavy toll on Mendelssohn, who died on November 4, 1847, less than six months after the death of his sister.
Mendelssohn wrote many compositions. The following are but a few highlights in no particular order:
- His Violin Concerto in E minor, Op. 65, written over six years from 1838 to 1844.
- The Octet for strings in E-Flat Major, Op. 20, scored for four violins, two violas, two cellos and written by the 16 year old Mendelssohn in 1825.
- Symphony No. 4 in A Major, Op. 90 ("Italian Symphony") (1833)
- Lieder ohne Worte, Opp. 19b, 30, 38, 53, 62, 67, 85, and 102 (songs without words) composed between 1829 and 1845.
- The Hebrides, Op. 26 (Overture) (also known as Fingal's Cave) composed in 1830.
- String Quartet No. 4 in E minor, Op. 44, No. 2, composed 1837, revised in 1839.
- String Symphony No. 11 in F Major (1823).
- Symphony No. 3 in A minor, Op. 56, ("Scottish Symphony") composed between 1829 and 1842.