Felix Mendelssohn was born Jacob Ludwig Felix Mendelssohn-Barthholdy in Hamburg, Germany in 1809. He is considered to be one of the most versatile and successful musicians of the early 19th century. During his lifetime he composed works in almost every musical form. His music is known for its graceful melodies that reflect his romantic spirit. His best known compositions include the overture and incidental music for Shakespeare’s Midsummer night’s Dream, the Symphony No. 3 in A Minor, the Symphony No. 3 in A Major and a series of Songs Without Words for the piano.
He was a master at composing choral music and composed two oratorios – Elijah and St. Paul. Chamber music was also included in his accomplishments with many solo works for the piano, one of the instruments in which he was a skilled player.
Mendelssohn was a child prodigy and his parents carefully developed his musical talents. He studied under the finest teachers in Germany and by age 12, he had composed several symphonies, operas and piano pieces, At the University of Berlin, he conducted Bach’s St. Matthew’s Passion in 1829. He always regarded this as one of his greatest musical triumphs. He toured Europe in 1829 and many of the sights he saw inspired his later works, such as Fingal’s Cave Overture, which was inspired by the beauty of Scotland.
He was appointed musical director at Dusseldorf, Germany in 1833 and two years later, he became the chief conductor of the famous Gewandhaus Orchestra in Leipzig. He retained this post until shortly before his death in Leipzig on November 4, 1847.