Felix Mendelssohn (3 February 1809 to 4 November 1847)
The great German romantic composer was born this day 208 years ago.
Mendelssohn and his sister were recognised early as music prodigies, and they became darlings of the salon.
After a false start with an opera, he had increasing success with works of classical structure and high refinement. To some tastes, he is too polished: to The Varnished Culture, this is akin to quibbling about Michelangelo‘s David for the smoothness of the marble. As with the great painter / sculptor, the polish was born of sheer hard work. Mendelssohn worked himself to death (aged 38).
At age 21 he took the Grand Tour, including to Italy.
Felix was quite a fan of Italy (his aquarelle of Florence is above) and he spent a fair bit of time in Rome and along the Amalfi coast. One his greatest, most ecstatic pieces was mostly written there – of course, Symphony No. 4, “The Italian Symphony” – a version is below c/- You Tube:
The day before he died, he was very ill, and confined to bed. His wife Cécile asked him how he felt, he replied, “Tired – very tired.”
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