Thursday, March 02, 2006

War of the Romantics: Part III -- Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847)

As the newest member of this blog, I find myself delegated to provide Felix Mendelssohn's Fourth Symphony, Op. 90, commonly known as the 'Italian' Symphony. Mendelssohn wrote the work in his early twenties inspired by a recent visit to, big surprise, Italy. As a German native, his work was highly influenced by the precedents set by his classical/baroque forefathers: Bach, Beethoven, Handel, Mozart. However, by 1825 he had developed a "characteristic style of his own, often underpinned by a literary, artistic historical, geographical or emotional connection." The Italian Symphony is such, each movement representing a different experience from his trip to Italy.

I. The opening A-major movement paints the scenery of sunny skies and landscapes of the Italian countryside.
II. The andante D-minor movement depicts a solemn "Pilgrims' March," from a religious procession in Naples or Rome.
III. Ther third movement is a moderato, a light and airy dance dominated by lyrical strings, with horns, then somewhat more martial trumpets in the trio.
IV. The work concludes with a presto Saltarello, a Roman dance with a hopping step.

Mendelssohn conducted its premiere in London in 1833 but was unhappy with his work and intended to revise it. But not long after it was written, Mendelssohn went on to Leipig to serve as conductor and music organizer for the Gewandhaus Orchestra. He kept this position until his death in 1847 and never got around to revising the Italian Symphony. Thus, the symphony was never published during his lifetime. (And for some odd reason, recieved the number 4, even though it was actually written before his "Second" and "Third" but after the "Fifth.")

So here goes my first blog here. I'll be back in a few days with three quartets by Martinu, unrelated to the War of the Romantics...

Symphony No. 4 in A Major, op.90 'Italian' - Wiener Philharmoniker and Sir George Solti


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