Mendelssohn: A Life in Music

Mendelssohn: A Life in Music

by R. Larry Todd
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Mendelssohn: A Life in Music by R. Larry Todd

An extraordinary prodigy of Mozartean abilities, Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy was a distinguished composer and conductor, a legendary pianist and organist, and an accomplished painter and classicist. Lionized in his lifetime, he is best remembered today for several staples of the concert hall, and such popular music as "The Wedding March" and "Hark, the Herald Angels Sing."

Now, in the first major Mendelssohn biography to appear in decades, R. Larry Todd offers a remarkably fresh account of this musical giant, based upon painstaking research in autograph manuscripts, correspondence, diaries, and paintings. Rejecting the view of the composer as a craftsman of felicitous but sentimental, saccharine works (termed by one critic "moonlight with sugar water"), Todd reexamines the composer's entire oeuvre, including many unpublished and little known works. Here are engaging analyses of Mendelssohn's distinctive masterpieces -- the zestful Octet, puckish Midsummer Night's Dream, haunting Hebrides Overtures, and elegiac Violin Concerto in E minor. Todd describes how the composer excelled in understatement and nuance, in subtle, coloristic orchestrations that lent his scores an undeniable freshness and vividness. He also explores Mendelssohn's changing awareness of his religious heritage, Wagner's virulent anti-Semitic attack on Mendelssohn's music, the composer's complex relationship with his sister Fanny Hensel, herself a child prodigy and prolific composer, his avocation as a painter and draughtsman, and his remarkable, polylingual correspondence with the cultural elite of his time. Mendelssohn: A Life in Music offers a masterful blend of biography and musical analysis. Readers will discover many new facets of the familiar but misunderstood composer and gain new perspectives on one of the most formidable musical geniuses of all time.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780195110432
Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
Publication date: 10/28/2003
Pages: 736
Product dimensions: 9.56(w) x 6.47(h) x 2.00(d)

About the Author

R. Larry Todd was hailed in The New York Times as "the dean of Mendelssohn scholars in the United States." A Professor of Musicology at Duke University, he has published widely on Mendelssohn and his time, and on nineteenth-century music.

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Mendelssohn: A Life in Music 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
As a Mendelssohn specialist I pre-ordered this book, and I've been working my way through it over the past few weeks, enjoying every moment. I cannot recommend it highly enough to anyone who is interested in this remarkable composer and his music. It has many points to commend it for scholars (extensive recourse to important but obscure archival documents, correction of major and minor factual errors that have persisted in all the previous Mendelssohn biographies, especially Eric Werner's error-plagued 1963 biography and its 1980 German revision), and just as many to commend to general readerships: it's elegantly written, well balanced, informative on contextual, musical, and biographical fronts, etc. Fanny's presence is arguably as strongly felt in the pages of this book as it was in Mendelssohn's life. Not least of all, there is the price; it is remarkable that a tome of this size and richness could be so affordable. I am a former student of Professor Todd (having gotten my Ph.D. from Duke University in 1994), but can also say that I offer these remarks without any bias other than that of being scholar, a musician, and an admirer of Mendelssohn. I highly recommend the volume to all who want to know more about that remarkable composer.