The Gifted Mendelssohn

Some people have talent in spades.  Since we here at the Asylum, well, most of us anyway, have a difficult time just shifting through the media frenzy for the truth each day, trying to discern the color of lies, half truths, manipulations, etc., we often give up and retreat to admire one who has talents that most of us don’t even dream of having.

Felix Mendelssohn (1809 – 1847) was one such individual who evidently had so many talents that he could have lent a few out and still have accomplished more than most.

Mendelssohn not only was a gifted composer, he was a talented artist as well. Check out a few of his sketches, drawings and paintings here.

This writer can’t draw the stick figure in such a manner that resembles, well, anything.   The sketches, drawings and paintings of Mendelssohn, a couple done at the age of 13, are remarkable and gives us pause to question the Creator on just how, and maybe why, talents couldn’t be dispersed a bit more democratically.  It’s nice that I can write with astonishing mediocrity most of the time, but must I be reminded just how deep my inadequacies are once I delve into the genius of artists, writers and composers, leaving me with the feeling that I should abandon all hope of creating anything of worth and retreat to a den of old books, pipe smoking, and leather-patched cardigans?  Evidently so!


By his mid-teens he (Mendelssohn) had written 13 string symphonies and an opera, and at seventeen wrote two of the pieces for which he is famous today – the overture to “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” and the equally charming Octet. From the age of twenty he travelled extensively for the next 16 years (he was particularly welcome in England where he was a favourite of the royal family) before settling in Leipzig to found the conservatorium there and conduct the famous Gewandhaus orchestra.

Let’s see, by the time I was 36 I was just getting through a couple of the calamities of life, pulling my head out of the ground enough to understand I had a lot of work to be done on myself. But such is the plight of the gifted, compared to the ungifted.

Not quite fitting in with the temperament of the Romantic era composer, Mendelssohn was by most accounts a happy and well-adjusted man. In other words, he was comfortable in his own skin.  Some have noted that Mendelssohn started life as a genius and ended as a talent. His wonderful oratorio “Elijah” premiered in 1846, one year before his death at the age of 37, would indicate otherwise.

He didn’t fit in with the lightning rod composers of the day, e.g., the Wagner’s and Pagnini’s of the period. He didn’t compose to advance classical music into the future.  He wrote what was in him.

Ever since I began to compose, I have remained true to my starting principle: not to write a page because no matter what public, or what pretty girl wanted it to be thus or thus; but to write solely as I myself thought best, and as it gave me pleasure. ~ Felix Mendelssohn


To leave you with a few of his many pieces that give us pleasure and hopefully will give you pleasure as well, the following Mendelssohn works are included below.

*The Scherzo from “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”. (4:45 minutes in length)

*The delightfully flying fingers of Ms. Yuja Wang and her performance of his 1st Piano Concerto.  (18:56 minutes in length.  If you want to skip to the 3rd movement where you can watch and listen to the virtuoso performance of Ms. Wang at its most exhilarating, go the the 12:18 mark and listen until the end.)

*And an infrequently played but hauntingly beautiful gem, “See What Love Hath the Father”.  (2:45 minutes in length)

Felix Mendelssohn – A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Op. 61 – II. Scherzo

Mendelssohns – Piano Concerto No. 1 in G minor (op. 25) , Yuja Wang, Kurt Masur

Paulus (St. Paul) , Op. 36: Chorus – See, What Love Hath the Father

Photo credit (front page): By Friedrich Jentzen (1815-1901); painting by Theodor Hildebrandt (1804-1874) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Photo credit:  James Warren Childe [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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