At tomorrow’s 10:30 am service, Oct. 3rd, I will be playing music by 19th century composer, Felix Mendelssohn, 1809-1847. The organ prelude and postlude will be from the Sonata No. 2 in C minor, a piece I first learned in high school, and the second movement of which is unusual in that it is written on four staves. Normally organists read music on three staves: treble clef, and two bass clefs, one being for the pedals. This movement has a solo in the right hand in the treble clef; the left hand plays an accompaniment notated on another treble and bass clef, and then there is the usual bass clef for the pedals. If you think this is complicated, you’re right!
The choir will sing a selection from Mendelssohn’s oratorio, “Elijah,” and Naomi Castro, usually a soprano, will sing in her mezzo range, “O rest in the Lord.”
I’ve been doing some reading about Mendelssohn, who was considered the young Mozart of his century. It’s well-known that his family was Jewish and converted to Christianity, but one thing I didn’t know before now was that Felix and his siblings were all baptized into the Lutheran Church! That’s actually when the family added the name Bartholdy, although Felix didn’t use it.
Many consider Mendelssohn the “Mozart” of his century, because as a child prodigy, he played the violin and piano and was gifted in languages. He also composed symphonies, operas and many pieces for the piano. When he was only 12, he visited and stayed with German poet, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, for two weeks.
We have Mendelssohn to thank for “resurrecting” the music of Johann Sebastian Bach, when he performed the St. Matthew Passion in 1829, one hundred years after its composition and the first performance since Bach’s death in 1750. Bach’s music had fallen out of favor after he died, and it was Mendelssohn’s popularity and four hundred students of the Singakademie who brought Bach’s music to life once more, although not in what we now call “historically-informed.”
Tragically, Mendelssohn died at the young age of only 38. Upon hearing that his dear sister Fanny had a stroke during a rehearsal, he screamed and fainted. She died in May. Only a few months later, he himself had a stroke and died on Nov. 4, 1847.