The German composer, pianist and conductor Jakob Ludwig Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy was born in Hamburg on 3 February 1809. A grandson of philosopher Moses Mendelssohn, Felix was born into a rich family which renounced the Jewish faith and converted to Christianity. His sister Fanny Mendelssohn also became a well-known pianist and composer.
He took piano lessons with his mother, Lea Salomon, at the age of six, and studied in Paris with Marie Bigot when he was seven. At eight he studied composition in Berlin with Carl Friedrich Zelter, who introduced him to Goethe. Later he studied with Ignaz Moscheles.
His life as a composer began early - between the ages of twelve and fourteen he wrote twelve string symphonies, and his first symphony for full orchestra at the age of fifteen. He studied aesthetics, history and geography at Berlin University, and then made the first of his ten visits to Britain, resulting in friendships, meeting royalty, and the composition of Fingal's Cave (the Hebrides Overture) and the Scottish Symphony.
He was appointed conductor of the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra in 1835, and he was able to improve the musical life of the city, founding the Leipzig Conservatoire with colleagues Moscheles and Robert Schumann.
His private life was conventional and conservative - he married in 1837, had five children and took up watercolour painting.
Mendelssohn died in Leipzig on 4 November 1847, aged 38, leaving a portfolio of chamber music, concertos, oratorios, piano music and symphonies which have given him much popularity and fame.
A selection of M&V articles about Felix Mendelssohn
Buzzy Textures - Clare Hammond plays in Nottingham, heard by Mike Wheeler
Ensemble. Suave and Polished - Mike Wheeler discovers the Heath Quartet
CD Spotlight. Matchless Virtuosity - Mendelssohn and Schumann violin concertos, heard by Gerald Fenech. '... Barton Pine's heartfelt response to both slow movements is full of tonal beauty ...'
Ensemble. Highest Accolades - Gerald Fenech enjoys his visit to Festival Maribor in Slovenia
CD Spotlight. In Perfect Balance - Mendelssohn from Laura Buruiana and Ferenc Vizi impresses Andrew Schartmann. 'Their playing is musical to the very core and their technique flawless.'
Fire and Energy - Peter Gould provides a compelling end to Derby Cathedral's summer organ series, heard by Mike Wheeler
Ensemble. Household Rituals - Contemporary and modern music at Aix-en-Provence, heard by Giuseppe Pennisi
Admirable Clarity - Andrew Kirk at the organ of Derby Cathedral, heard by Mike Wheeler
Ensemble. Triumphant Climax - Five organists at two organs open this year's series of Derby Cathedral organ recitals, heard by Mike Wheeler
Ensemble. Bursting with Vitality - Mendelssohn and Beethoven from the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra thrilled Mike Wheeler
CD Spotlight. Gallic Sheen - Christmas choral music from Arsys Bourgogne, heard by Keith Bramich. '... a well-recommended stocking-filler ...'
Ensemble. A Natural Stage Presence - Guild Music's concert to celebrate the launch of two new CDs, reviewed by Alice McVeigh
Ensemble. Exquisitely Floated - Soprano Catrin Woodruff joins the Derby Concert Orchestra, heard by Mike Wheeler
Ensemble. Reaching Out - Mendelssohn, Mozart, Berlioz and Ravel from James Feddeck and the Cleveland Orchestra, heard by Suzanne Torrey
CD Spotlight. Beauty and Power - Australian soprano Nance Grant, heard by Howard Smith. '... an exceptional voice seldom heard beyond local shores.'
Ensemble. The Finest of Them All - The 2012 Hereford Three Choirs Festival, reviewed by Roderic Dunnett
Spell-Binding - A recital by organist Steven Grahl, heard by Mike Wheeler
Nicely Paced - Martyn Rawles at the organ of Derby Cathedral, heard by Mike Wheeler
Ensemble. Great Conviction - Mendelssohn, Mozart and Vivaldi from Derby Choral Union, reviewed by Mike Wheeler
CD Spotlight. Most Remarkable - Jamaican pianist Orrett Rhoden, heard by Bill Newman
CD Spotlight. Different Idioms - Clarinet music by Brahms, Mendelssohn and Schumann, heard by Robert Anderson. 'Emma Johnson and John Lenehan make a fine partnership ...'
Ensemble. Superb Playing - Bill Newman listens to a selection of instrumental chamber music in London
CD Spotlight. Instant Enjoyment - Mendelssohn string symphonies and concertos, heard by Robert Anderson. '... scintillating brilliance ...'
Ensemble. Sublime Music-making - Kurt Masur conducts the Philharmonia Orchestra, heard by Bill Newman
Ensemble. Energy and Fire - 'Close Encounters with Music' from Scottsdale, heard by Maria Nockin
Ensemble. Lilting Charm - Bill Newman listens to the Danish String Quartet
Ensemble. A Balanced Exploration - Mike Wheeler listens to Ensemble Viva play Schumann, Mendelssohn and Beethoven
CD Spotlight. A Fascinating Coupling - Mendelssohn and Franck quartets, heard by Robert Anderson. '... strenuous and compelling ...'
A Firm Grasp - Peter Litman plays the organs of Derby Cathedral, heard by Mike Wheeler
Ever Responsive - Two recitals by Alberto Portugheis impress Malcolm Miller
CD Spotlight. Often Spectacular - The American String Project, seen and heard by Patric Standford. 'The performers are undoubtedly superb ...'
CD Spotlight. Unaffected Restraint - Halida Dinova plays music that tells stories, heard by Howard Smith. '... a mesmerising interpreter ...'
Profile. Humanizing Emotions - American conductor James Conlon talks to Maria Nockin
CD Spotlight. Vibrant Music - Mendelssohn Trio and Sonatas, heard by Robert Anderson. '... ready skill and deft handling ...'
CD Spotlight. Positively Spellbinding - Music for clarinet, piano and cello, enjoyed by Howard Smith. '... a fine recording ...'
Ensemble. Unmissable Talents - An array of artists at London's Wigmore Hall, reviewed by Bill Newman
CD Spotlight. Meant to Last - J S Bach cello suites, enjoyed by George Balcombe. '... brilliance and beauty ...'
Malcolm Smith (1932-2011) - A celebration, not an obituary, by Bill Newman
CD Spotlight. A Noteworthy Introduction - Music by Stravinsky for violin and piano, heard by Howard Smith. '... refreshing naturalness ...'
Ensemble. Truly Miraculous - The Emerson Quartet, heard by Bill Newman
Ensemble. Searing Eloquence - A centenary performance of Elgar's Violin Concerto, heard by Robert Anderson
Ensemble. Glowing Performance - The Sitwell Singers begin a new season, reviewed by Mike Wheeler
Flying Colours - A piano recital by Theresia Renelt, appreciated by Mary Isaac
Ensemble. Bravura Performance - A piano recital by Anthony Hughes, heard by Mary Isaac
CD Spotlight. Striking Originality - Piano music by Moscheles, Mendelssohn and Schumann, heard by Robert Anderson. '...Todd Crow deserves unstinted gratitude.'
Ensemble. Performance to Cherish - Lawrence Budmen submits a further report from the Tanglewood Festival 2010
CD Spotlight. Great Abilities - Piano trios by Donald Tovey, heard by Robert Anderson. '... diatonic convictions ...'
Ensemble. Museum Culture? - Experimental music by Cage, Cowell, Feldman, Rzewski, Satie and Wolff, heard by Malcolm Miller
CD Spotlight. Lyrical Powers - Orchestral music by Louis Spohr, heard by Robert Anderson. 'Howard Shelley and the Swiss orchestra clearly relish this unusual assignment.'
Ensemble. Celebrating in Style - Derby Concert Orchestra's sixtieth birthday, with Mike Wheeler
Ensemble. A True Dynamo - Lawrence Budmen listens to French conductor Ludovic Morlot, in concert with Jennifer Koh and the New World Symphony
Ensemble. Crisp and Energetic - Ilya Gringolts, Sinfonia Viva and André de Ridder, heard by Mike Wheeler
CD Spotlight. A Forthright Approach - J S Bach's St Matthew Passion, recommended by Howard Smith. '... the Ex Cathedra performance is a triumph.'
Ensemble. Vividly Characterised - Mike Wheeler listens to the Sitwell Singers
World-ranking Pianism - Malcolm Troup marvels anew at the artistry of Julian Jacobson
Ensemble. Thoughtfully Conceived - James Judd conducts Handel's 'Messiah', reviewed by Lawrence Budmen
Ensemble. Invigorating Performance - Sinfonia Viva plays Judith Weir, heard by Mike Wheeler
Ensemble. Imagination and Strength - Celebrating the Mendelssohn anniversary at Mannes College, reported by Anna L Franco
CD Spotlight. Irresistible Enjoyment - Music by Mozart and Mendelssohn, heard by Howard Smith. '... a truly idiomatic performance ...'
Ensemble. A Nice Blend - Mendelssohn, Haydn and Beethoven from the Derby Concert Orchestra, heard by Mike Wheeler
Ensemble. Brisk Ebullience - Lawrence Budmen sends a second report from this summer's Tanglewood Festival
Ensemble. Buoyancy and Lyricism - Derby Cathedral Choir celebrates four composer anniversaries, reviewed by Mike Wheeler
Ensemble. Perfectly Measured - Bill Newman listens to Aldo Ciccolini
CD Spotlight. Utterly Absorbing - A sampler from Cedille Records, enjoyed by Howard Smith. '... top quality standards.'
CD Spotlight. Sacrificing the 'unmodern' - Music by Julius Röntgen and Per Nørgård, heard by George Balcombe. 'How could any audience resist ... ?'
Bizarre Perception - Alistair Hinton discusses a recent article on English music by David Hamilton
An Invigorating Performance - Paul Hale provides a fitting end to Derby Cathedral's summer organ series, and Mike Wheeler was there
Ensemble. Sing ye to the Lord - Roderic Dunnett was at the 2009 Hereford Three Choirs Festival
Convincingly Handled - Tom Corfield plays the organ of Derby Cathedral, heard by Mike Wheeler
Ensemble. Especially Successful - Gillian Wills reports from the Australian Fesival of Chamber Music
Balancing Act - Beethoven in E flat, with Julian Jacobson and friends
Highly Effective - Peter Gould helps celebrate the seventieth anniversary of Derby Cathedral's Compton Organ, as noted by Mike Wheeler
Lively Characterisation - An organ recital by Ian Tracey, heard by Mike Wheeler
Effectively Projected - York Minster's Robert Sharpe plays the organ at Derby Cathedral, reviewed by Mike Wheeler
A Dexterous Journey - Alessandro Taverna at London's Steinway Hall, reviewed by Bill Newman
Cumulative Weight - Mike Wheeler listens to Peter Williams at the organ of Derby Cathedral
Ensemble. A Sparkling Account - The Kanazawa-Admony Piano Duo pays tribute to Carola Grindea, reviewed by Malcolm Miller
Clear Detail - Mike Wheeler listens to organist Matthew Owens at Derby Cathedral
Ensemble. Splendidly Varied - Thomas Trotter at the organ of Derby Cathedral, heard by Mike Wheeler
Ensemble. Exceptional Gifts - Lawrence Budmen reports from the 2009 Miami International Piano Festival
Ensemble. Intensity of Playing - Robert Hugill was at the start of Endymion's 30th birthday celebrations
Ensemble. A Deft Touch - Mendelssohn and Kurt Weill from Sinfonia Viva, with no complaints from Mike Wheeler
Ensemble. Declamatory Eloquence - Mendelssohn, Haydn and Shostakovich from the Navarra Quartet, heard by Mike Wheeler
CD Spotlight. Consistently Solid - Kurt Masur and others conduct Mendelssohn, reviewed by Howard Smith. '... too often short on graciousness, charm or buoyancy.'
Ensemble. A Superb Team - Haydn, Mendelssohn, Beethoven and Tchaikovsky from Mark Elder and the Hallé Orchestra, heard by Mike Wheeler
Ensemble. A Delightful Afternoon - Lawrence Budmen listens to the Chameleon Musicians
Ensemble. Simply Magical - Mike Wheeler listens to Haydn, Sibelius and Mendelssohn played by the Hallé Orchestra
An Unexpected Treasure - Jeanette Hanscome talks to author Helen Martens about her new book 'Felix Mendelssohn: Out of the Depths of His Heart'
Ensemble. Winning Freshness - Music by Bach, Felix and Fanny Mendelssohn, Mozart and Wagner, played by Sinfonia Viva, and heard by Mike Wheeler
Ensemble. Elegance and Authority - Leila Josefowicz and the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra in Nottingham, reviewed by Mike Wheeler
Ensemble. Rousing Performance - Mendelssohn, Ravel, Larsen and Tchaikovsky in South Florida, reviewed by Lawrence Budmen
Ensemble. Fresh Energy - Sinfonia Viva begins its Mendelssohn celebrations, heard by Mike Wheeler
Ensemble. Inspired Vision - Mendelssohn's 'Elijah', reviewed by Lawrence Budmen
CD Spotlight. Fascinating Rarities - Taneyev string trios, heard by Julian Jacobson. '... a performance of real commitment and assurance ...'
Youthful Freshness - Gareth Green gives the final organ recital in Derby Cathedral's summer series, and Mike Wheeler was in the audience
Lucid Messiaen - Cathy Lamb at the organ, reviewed by Mike Wheeler
CD Spotlight. A Thrilling Experience - Kevin Bowyer plays Alkan, reviewed by Alistair Hinton. '... flawless technique and missionary commitment ...'
Ensemble. A Singing Style - Violinist Jack Liebeck makes a short-notice appearance with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, reviewed by Mike Wheeler
Irresistible Momentum - Alexander Shelley at Sinfonia Viva's helm, reviewed by Mike Wheeler
Musical Insight - Two piano recitals in Brisbane, reviewed by Gillian Wills
Ensemble. An Intellectual Oasis - Lawrence Budmen returns to Tanglewood to hear the Boston Symphony Orchestra
Ensemble. Splendidly Wide-ranging - The Sitwell Singers' Christmas concert, reviewed by Mike Wheeler
Ensemble. Zip and Sparkle? - The Munich Symphony Orchestra on tour, reviewed by Mike Wheeler
Ensemble. Tanglewood and Beyond - The sounds of summer in the Berkshires, reviewed by Lawrence Budmen
Record Box. Lions and Lionesses - Romantic music for piano and orchestra, reviewed by George Balcombe
Bubbling Energy - An organ recital by Malcolm Riley, reviewed by Mike Wheeler
Ensemble. Sunshine and Stars - The Australian Festival of Chamber Music 2006 continues, and Malcolm Tattersall sends a second report
Ensemble. Fascinating Fusions - Ladino music from Jewish Music Central marks the UK launch of the book 'The Sephardic Songbook', reviewed by Malcolm Miller
Recent Releases - Books, paintings and music at a writers' event, reviewed by Anna Franco
Ensemble. Debussy to savour - Malcolm Miller admires Valerie Tryon in recital
Ensemble. Maturity and insight - Julian Bliss and Sinfonia Viva in Derby, reviewed by Mike Wheeler
Ensemble. Spirit of friendship - Malcolm Miller admires Schubert and Mendelssohn at the London début of the newly formed piano trio 'Opus 3'
Ensemble. High expectations - A concert by The Quince Quartet, reviewed by Mike Wheeler
Ensemble. Bravura virtuosity - Lawrence Budmen was at the Miami International Piano Festival
Ensemble. A tropical farewell - Malcolm Tattersall sends a final report from the Australian Festival of Chamber Music
CD Spotlight. Interlinking resonances - A song recital by Malena Ernman, reviewed by Robert Hugill. '... lively and charmingly refreshing ...'
Ensemble. Richly sumptuous - The Czech Moravian Virtuosi Orchestra sparkles in novelties from Europe, by Lawrence Budmen
Ensemble. Perfect realisations - Mei Yi Foo at Steinway Hall, reviewed by Bill Newman