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Mendelssohn in Performance

Edited by Siegwart Reichwald. Foreword by Christopher Hogwood

Publication Year: 2008

Exploring many aspects of Felix Mendelssohn's multi-faceted career as musician and how it intersects with his work as composer, contributors discuss practical issues of music making such as performance space, instruments, tempo markings, dynamics, phrasings, articulations, fingerings, and instrument techniques. They present the conceptual and ideological underpinnings of Mendelssohn's approach to performance, interpretation, and composing through the contextualization of specific performance events and through the theoretic actualization of performances of specific works. Contributors rely on manuscripts, marked or edited scores, and performance parts to convey a deeper understanding of musical expression in 19th-century Germany. This study of Mendelssohn's work as conductor, pianist, organist, violist, accompanist, music director, and editor of old and new music offers valuable perspectives on 19th-century performance practice issues.

Published by: Indiana University Press


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pp. v

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pp. vii-x

It is only recently that Mendelssohn has made the transition from being an “easy” composer to being a “composer with problems.” In his lifetime he, like Mozart, outlived his reputation as a Wunderkind. However, whereas Mozart then proceeded to a career in which the public decided that his performing was a spectacle worth applauding, ...

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1. Mendelssohn’s Audience

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pp. 1-18

In approaching any music of the past, we should keep in mind the contexts of that music’s historical performances. We commonly reconstitute music using period instruments, styles of ornamentation, choices of tempo. We take a less conscious attitude, however, toward reconstituting ourselves as period listeners. ...

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2. Mendelssohn and the Piano

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pp. 19-40

Even during Mendelssohn’s lifetime, three distinct images of him as a pianist-composer had begun to develop that served to categorize his musical style for over a century after his death. The positive was based on direct knowledge of his own playing and performance-practice. ...

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3. Mendelssohn and the Organ

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pp. 41-58

In addition to all his other talents, Mendelssohn was renowned as an organist—especially for his improvisation and Bach performances— although very few of his appearances were in the context of a formal concert. Most of his playing took place on at least nominally private occasions for fellow organists or friends, ...

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4. The Performance of Mendelssohn’s Chamber and Solo Music for Violin

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pp. 59-84

Mendelssohn’s extraordinary skills as a pianist and organist were widely recognized by his contemporaries and are vividly conveyed in press reviews, contemporaneous accounts, and reminiscences. His ability as a string player is not so well known or documented, yet during his childhood he received regular instruction in violin playing. ...

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5. Mendelssohn and the Orchestra

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pp. 85-100

This famous passage underlines the chief difficulty in any study of performance. Music is an ephemeral act. In the absence of preserved sounds from Mendelssohn’s lifetime, one is compelled to undertake a process of archaeological synthesis, drawing together various indirect forms of evidence, ...

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6. Mendelssohn as Composer/Conductor: Early Performances of Paulus

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pp. 101-114

Felix Mendelssohn’s dual role as composer and conductor placed him in a position of seemingly complete control to present his large-scale works in an ideal fashion. In 1835, at the age of twenty-six, Mendelssohn became the music director of the Gewandhaus orchestra in Leipzig, after having established himself ...

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7. From Drawing Room to Theater: Performance Traditions of Mendelssohn’s Stage Works

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pp. 115-146

Mendelssohn’s stage works have had a remarkably uneven performance and reception history. One—the Midsummer Night’s Dream music—has been produced in a multiplicity of guises. The other incidental music, however, is relatively little-known, and the early operas have scarcely had a performance history at all. ...

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8. Mendelssohn and the Performance of Handel’s Vocal Works

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pp. 147-170

Although Mendelssohn also championed other composers of the eighteenth century as well as the so-called “Alte Musik,” namely Italian church music, with occasional performances,1 these areas are marginal in his career in view of the intensity and continuity of Mendelssohn’s dedication to the music ...

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9. From Notation to Edition to Performance: Issues in Interpretation

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pp. 171-188

This essay is addressed to two principal readerships: performers who work from printed editions of Mendelssohn’s music and prospective editors of that music. It centers around two highly subjective aspects of musical interpretation: notation (manuscript and printed) and performance. ...

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10. Mendelssohn’s Tempo Indications

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pp. 189-206

Much has been written and debated about the tempi of music by Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Brahms, Mahler, and even Stravinsky. The generation of Mendelssohn, Schumann, Berlioz, and Chopin, however, seems to have been skipped in this discussion. This is surprising, since in many ways these composers hold the key to understanding ...

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11. “For You See I Am the Eternal Objector”: On Performing Mendelssohn’s Music in Translation

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pp. 207-250

Few nineteenth-century composers were more linguistically proficient than Mendelssohn. Together with his younger sister, Rebecka, he studied classical Greek from the age of nine. At eleven he was studying Latin six hours a week, and some time late in 1820 or 1821 he was sufficiently versed in Ovid’s dactylic hexameter ...

List of Contributors

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pp. 251-252


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pp. 253-260

E-ISBN-13: 9780253002617
E-ISBN-10: 0253002613
Print-ISBN-13: 9780253351999

Page Count: 272
Illustrations: 6 b&w photos, 41 figures
Publication Year: 2008