Following the sell-out success of our Beethoven Piano Concerto series together in 2022, we reunite with Sir András Schiff for an immersive journey through the quintet of masterworks that spanned Mendelssohn’s tragically short life.
If any work could have established Mendelssohn’s status as heir to Beethoven it may have been ‘Lobgesang’, the work eventually filed as Symphony No. 2 in the history books. The work composed the latest in our series – the E minor Violin Concerto – is also arguably the composer’s greatest musical achievement.
A hybrid symphony-cantata, ‘Lobgesang’ is a truly extraordinary work. It plants its roots in the past whilst simultaneously capturing the revolutionary experience of the events that inspired it. It was composed and premiered in 1840 – five years after Mendelssohn had moved to Leipzig as chief conductor of the Gewandhaus orchestra there – to celebrate the 400th anniversary of Gutenburg’s movable type printing press, This invention was to prove transformational in the course of European history through its impact on the dissemination of everything from religious and political ideas to music itself.
The Violin Concerto dates from 1844, the year in which Mendelssohn met the Swedish soprano Jenny Lind (the muse of Elijah). Whilst classically proportioned its seemingly endless flow of melody and genius of invention make it a pinnacle of the early Romantic era, the benchmark which almost all future concertos for the instrument aspire to or rebel against.
In 1846, two years after the Violin Concerto, Mendelssohn composed Elijah, his last great complete work. The following year, exhausted from a tour of Britain and devastated by the death of his sister Fanny, herself a fine composer and pianist, he suffered a series of strokes. Felix Mendelssohn died on 4 November 1847. He was just 38 years old.
This event is part of Mendelssohn: The Complete Symphonies, Hear Symphonies No. 1 and No. 4 on Wednesday 24 April and Symphonies No. 3 and No. 5 on Thursday 25 April.
Part of Southbank Centre Season 2023/24.
"[Death is a place] where it is to be hoped there is still music, but no more sorrow or partings."