Mendelssohn: A Midsummer Night's Dream
The stories, legends, and myths about the trials and travails of composers lives are legion, like Beethoven’s battles against fate, Mozart and Schubert’s struggles with finances, Brahms’ failures with women, Mahler’s troubles with just about everyone, and Shostakovich’s near fatal interactions with the government. These stories tend to add to the general understanding of these composers, and in fact they tend to enhance their reputations. We see their struggles in their music, and it makes us admire them more for overcoming them. With Mendelssohn, and to some extent Haydn as well, we have the opposite case. Mendelssohn grew up in a happy, wealthy German family, and it was only late in his life when he underwent any major struggles at all. Whether this happy upbringing contributed to the character of his music is anyone’s guess, but Mendelssohn seems to always get the short end of the stick when it comes to reputation, and I think that his generally cheerful music has a lot to do with this fact. But Mendelssohn is no second-rate composer. As I mentioned in April with my show about Mendelssohn’s Octet, he was certainly THE greatest composer under 18 that we know of(and yes I’m including Mozart in that), and his best music ranks up there with the best composers in history. And today, our focus on both the overture to Midsummer Night’s Dream, and the incidental music that Mendelssohn wrote 17 years later, allows us to enjoy the full breadth of Mendelssohn’s staggering talent. This is not only clever and cheerful music. It is also fantastically orchestrated, perfectly structured, and in the case of the overture, it is full of invention and character that is simply mind-blowing from a composer who was just 17 years old at the time. So today we’ll talk all about this, from the beauty and perfection of the overture to the incidental music that followed, meant to be performed alongside Shakespeare’s play. We’ll also talk about the role Shakespeare played in Germany at the time, and how Mendelssohn’s upbringing did indeed have a lot to do with the music he chose to write. Join us!