Composer in Focus – Felix Mendelssohn

Name: Jakob Ludwig Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy
Dates: 1809-1847
Country of Birth: Germany
Musical Era: Romantic

Mendelssohn is one of the unassuming giants of early Romantic music, once cited as the ‘second coming’ of Mozart…  Though born into a Jewish family in Germany in 1809, the Mendelssohn’s sought integration during increasingly troubled times and young Felix was eventually baptised into the Protestant religion (the family adding ‘Bartholdy’ to their name thereafter).  An astonishing talent from a young age, the prodigious Mendelssohn was (much like Mozart) composing concerti and symphonies well before his 12th birthday.  His talents as a composer, and performer – indeed he played piano, organ and violin – were noted in 1821 by none other than Beethoven, who witnessed a performance and noted in his diary that the young musician and composer showed much promise.  Through his relatively short life, Mendelssohn found fame in Germany and beyond, perhaps most notably here in the UK. Many of this greatest works received their premieres here and his later friendship with Queen Victoria and Prince Albert became one of his most cherished.  One of the first great conductors, Mendelssohn championed the works of J S Bach almost a hundred years after they had gone out of fashion and went on to found the Leipzig Conservatoire before his untimely death aged 38.

Key works… ‘Scottish’ Symphony (dedicated to Queen Victoria), Hebrides Overture (‘Fingal’s Cave’), Songs Without Words, Overture/Incidental Music from ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’.

Did you know?  Mendelssohn was also a noted poet, artist and linguist. He was also once the director of the Birmingham Music Festival.

Mendelssohn in Bristol (April/May 2016)
Fri 15 April, 7.30pm / Mikhail Kazakevich (piano) ‘Prelude & Fugue’ (St George’s)
Thurs 28 April, 1pm / Rautio Piano Trio ‘Trio No 1 in D minor’ (St George’s)
Thurs 19 May, 1pm / Lara Melda (piano) ‘Prelude & Fugue’ (St George’s)
Sat 21 May, 7.45pm / Brandon Hill Chamber Orchestra ‘Scottish Symphony’ (St George’s)
Thurs 26 May, 1pm / Rautio Piano Trio ‘Trio No 2 in C minor’ (St George’s)

Learn more about Mendelssohn and listen to playlists at classicfm.com


Composer in Focus – Alberto Ginastera

Name: Alberto Evaristo Ginastera
Dates: 1916-1983
Country of Birth: Argentina
Musical Era: Modern

Today Ginastera is recognised as one of the most important and influential of all of the composers to come from the Americas.  Born in Buenos Aires to Catalan and Italian parents, the young Ginastera studied hard and went on to become a teacher of music and composition, all the while composing.  A spell in the US under the tutelage of the great American composer Aaron Copland was followed by more teaching and composing; indeed Ginastera would teach notable up and coming composers such as Astor Piazzolla. Ginastera very much dedicated his life to his music and his students, with the former very much finding its roots in traditional folk tunes and inspired by South American legends.  As he grew older his music evolved into something more abstract, though his roots remained evident.  The composer eventually returned to the United States and then onto Europe, where he died in 1983.

Key works… Don Rodrigo Op.31 (Opera), Piano Sonata No 1, Cantata para América Mágica, Estancia

Did you know?  Ginastera also composed music for films, and the fourth movement of his first piano concerto formed the basis of the Emerson, Lake and Palmer track ‘Toccata’ on their album Brain Salad Surgery.

Ginastera in Bristol (April 2016)
Sat 9 April, 7pmNat’l Children’s Orchestra of GB ‘Dances’ from Estancia (Colston Hall)
Sat 23 April, 7.30pm / Exultate Singers  ‘Lamentations of Jeremiah’ (St George’s)