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Felix Mendelssohn

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Hamburg, Germany (1809 – 1847)

Jakob Ludwig Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy, known generally as Felix Mendelssohn (1809–1847) was a German composer, pianist, organist, and conductor of the early Romantic period.

Mendelssohn was born on 3rd February 1809 in Hamburg, Germany into a notable Jewish family (his grandfather was the philosopher Moses Mendelssohn). He was a child prodigy, though his family were careful not to allow this to distort his upbringing, and only approved of his following a musical career when it was clear that he was serious about music.

Early success in Germany was followed by travel throughout Europe; Mendelssohn was particularly well received in Britain as a composer, conductor and soloist, and his ten visits there (during which many of his major works were premiered) form an important part of his adult career. His essentially conservative musical tastes however set him apart from many of his more adventurous musical contemporaries such as Franz Liszt, Richard Wagner, and Hector Berlioz. The Conservatory he founded at Leipzig became a bastion of this anti-radical outlook.

Mendelssohn’s work includes symphonies, concertos, oratorios, piano works, and chamber music. He also had an important role in the revival of interest in the music of Johann Sebastian Bach. After a long period of relative denigration due to changing musical tastes and antisemitism in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, his creative originality has again been recognised, and re-evaluated. He is now among the most popular composers of the Romantic era.

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