Mendelssohn's Life and Work Celebrated in Festival at USAO

Mendelssohn's Life and Work Celebrated in Festival at USAO


Although he isn't around to celebrate his 200th birthday, the music and work of Felix Mendelssohn lives on during the Festival of Arts and Ideas at the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma.

The festival, celebrating the life, work and times of Mendelssohn, is scheduled Oct. 5-6 at 7:30 p.m. each night in the USAO Student Center Ballroom. The performances are free and open to the public. Refreshments will be served.

USAO faculty, students, alumni and staff will present music, art, drama and information from the Romantic era. "Mendelssohn and the Roots of Romanticism" is scheduled Monday night and "Mendelssohn and Romanticism in Full Bloom" is scheduled Tuesday.

Mendelssohn is considered among the most popular composers of the Romantic era. His work includes symphonies, chamber music, piano, oratorios and concerti. He was born in 1809 and died in 1847.

Born in Germany, he was the son of a wealthy banker and the grandson of a Jewish rabbi and philosopher. His family converted from Judaism to Christianity.

Mendelssohn studied piano with Ludwig Berger and theory and composition with Zelter, producing his first piece in 1820.  His early influences included the poetry of Goethe and Shakespeare. He conducted a pioneering performance of Bach's "St. Matthew Passion" at Berlin Singakademie when he was 20 years old.

He decided on music as his profession while studying at Berlin University. During the following years, he traveled and performed throughout Europe. At 26, he moved to Leipzig and became the conductor of Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, performing works by Bach and Beethoven.

Mendelssohn was married in 1832 and had five children. He composed numerous compositions, gave several successful performances of his work and other composers. In 1842, he performed private concerts for Prince Albert and Queen Victoria.

He founded the Leipzig Conservatory in 1843 and was named director of the Music Section of the Academy of Arts in Berlin. Even with little time to compose, he completed the Ruy Blas overture and stage music for Shakespeare's "A Midsummer Night's Dream" in which probably his most recognizable composition "Wedding March" was included.

Following the death of his father, mother and sister, he suffered two strokes -- the last killing him at 38 years old.

Many consider Mendelssohn the 19th century equivalent of Mozart. Most agree that his most vibrant contributions were in choral and organ music genres, which were probably the result of his deep admiration for Bach and Handel.