Mendelssohn : A Life in Music

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An extraordinary prodigy of Mozartean abilities, Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy was a distinguished composer and conductor, a legendary pianist and organist, and an accomplished painter and classicist. Lionized in his lifetime, he is best remembered today for several staples of the concert hall and for such popular music as "The Wedding March" and "Hark, the Herald Angels Sing." Now, in the first major Mendelssohn biography to appear in decades, R. Larry Todd offers a remarkably fresh account of this musical giant, based upon painstaking research in autograph manuscripts, correspondence, diaries, and paintings. Rejecting the view of the composer as a craftsman of felicitous but sentimental, saccharine works (termed by one critic "moonlight with sugar water"), Todd reexamines the composer's entire oeuvre, including many unpublished and little known works. Here are engaging analyses of Mendelssohn's distinctive masterpieces--the zestful Octet, puckish Midsummer Night's Dream, haunting Hebrides Overtures, and elegiac Violin Concerto in E minor. Todd describes how the composer excelled in understatement and nuance, in subtle, coloristic orchestrations that lent his scores an undeniable freshness and vividness. He also explores Mendelssohn's changing awareness of his religious heritage, Wagner's virulent anti-Semitic attack on Mendelssohn's music, the composer's complex relationship with his sister Fanny Hensel, herself a child prodigy and prolific composer, his avocation as a painter and draughtsman, and his remarkable, polylingual correspondence with the cultural elite of his time. Mendelssohn: A Life offers a masterful blend of biography and musical analysis. Readers will discover many new facets of the familiar but misunderstood composer and gain new perspectives on one of the most formidable musical geniuses of all more

Product details

  • Hardback | 716 pages
  • 156.5 x 245.4 x 53.1mm | 1,197.49g
  • Oxford University Press Inc
  • New York, United States
  • English
  • 20ill.mus.exs.
  • 0195110439
  • 9780195110432

Table of contents

GENEOLOGICAL TREE OF ITZIG AND MENDELSSOHN FAMILIES XV; MAP: PRINCIPAL SITES OF FELIX MENDELSSOHN BARTHOLDY'S TRAVELS XVIII; PREFACE XIX; PROLOGUE: PORCELAIN MONKEYS AND FAMILY IDENTITIES; PART I: PRECOCIOUS DEEDS; 1. In Nebel und Nacht:Hamburg to Berlin (1809-1819); 2. Apprenticed Prodigy (1820-1821); 3. The Second Mozart (1821-1822); 4. The Apprentice to Journeyman (1823-1824); 5. The Prodigy's Voice (1825-1826); 6. In the Public Eye (1827-1829); PART II: THE ROAD TO DAMASCUS; 7. Amateur Gentleman (1829); 8. Wanderlust (1830-1832); 9. Dusseldorf Beginnings (1832-1835); 10. The Apostle's Voice (1835-1837); PART III: ELIJAH'S CHARIOT; 11. Musical Biedermeier (1837-1839); 12. Leipzig vs. Berlin (1840-1841); 13. From Kapellmeister to Generalmusikdirektor (1841-1842); 14. Portrait of a Prussian Musician (1842-1843); 15. The Noon of Fame: Years of Triumph (1844-1846); 16. The Prophet's Voice: Elijah's Chariot (1846-1847)show more

Review quote

A highly readable and authoritative account of a brief but remarkably creative life, and an important contribution to Mendelssohn studies. S Professor Todd is our most distinguished authority on Mendelssohn ... His new volume gives not only a remarkably full and detailed picture of Mendelssohn's career, but also a rich and satisfying account of the European culture in which he lived out his short life. Charles Rosen, Times Literary Supplement Mendelssohn is a splendid and deeply satisfactory achievement. Charles Rosen, Times Literary Supplement This monumental and magisterial biography is itself a celebration of the composer's life and achievement. His book Mendelssohn: A Life in Music will inspire all its readers to get to know the composer's music better. Such an exhaustive and definitive biography as Mr Todd's Mendelssohn will surely become a standard reference work for many years to come. Rufus Hallmark, Washington Times Daily (USA), 14/03/04 Professor Todd's imposing tome must surely be the last word on Felix Mendelssohn's life and music. It is a remarkable work of reserch and musical scholarship engagingly written and accessible even to a non-music specialist. Classic FM, The Magazineshow more

Review Text

This is the first major and comprehensive biography of Felix Mendelssohn to appear in many years, and it is exemplary in terms of its scholarship and readability. R Larry Todd is a Professor of Musicology at Duke University and a recognised authority on Mendelssohn. Professor Todd has had a huge amount of material to draw on, Mendelssohn was a great hoarder of documents as well as a prolific letter writer, assiduous diary keeper (even on his honeymoon) and he also preserved his own manuscripts. He was a man of many talents. He explored painting and drawing, classical studies and theology, and in his musical talents, composing being only one side as he could play the piano and the organ, the violin and the viola, his range of skills was on a par with Mozart. His reputation has endured many vicissitudes, lauded and praised during his all too short life (he died at thirty-eight), his standing was then demolished by a vicious anti-Semitic tirade from Wagner, presaging a total ban on the playing of his music by the Nazi regime, and by the twentieth century reaction against all things Victorian, including music and culture. As a friend of Prince Albert and Queen Victoria he had enjoyed huge successes, and the playing of the Wedding March from his incidental music to A Midsummer Night's Dream at the wedding of the Princess Royal to the Crown Prince of Prussia set the seal not only on his status within the English establishment but, of course, established a very long living tradition. Professor Todd traces Mendelssohn's origins from his grandfather, Moses, through his early days in Hamburg where it is recorded that the child disliked loud military music but 'listened with fixed attention to anything softer', to his first travels in Europe as a twenty year old, already mature in his musical compositional skills, and records the course of his prolific output in his later years. Alongside the academic analysis of his music, there runs an illuminating account of his family life and his relationships with the many people filling his life. In no sense a hagiography, this is an absolutely fascinating and readable account of the life of a great musician whose reputation is once again in the ascendancy. There is an extremely comprehensive bibliography, detailed notes to each chapter and a voluminous index. (Kirkus UK)show more

About R. Larry Todd

R. Larry Todd was hailed in The New York Times as "the dean of Mendelssohn scholars in the United States." A Professor of Musicology at Duke University, he has published widely on Mendelssohn and his time, and nineteenth-century more

Rating details

35 ratings
4.2 out of 5 stars
5 37% (13)
4 51% (18)
3 9% (3)
2 0% (0)
1 3% (1)
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