Chapter

Mendelssohn: The Formative Years, 1820–1838

Wm. A. Little

in Mendelssohn and the Organ

Published in print July 2010 | ISBN: 9780195394382
Published online September 2010 | e-ISBN: 9780199863556 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195394382.003.0002
Mendelssohn: The Formative Years, 1820–1838

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This chapter details the life of Mendelssohn from 1820-38. It argues that consideration of Mendelssohn and the organ must proceed from the premise that, first and last, Mendelssohn was a secular musician. Unlike the great body of organists and organ composers of the past, Mendelssohn never held a regular church post anywhere. Haydn, Mozart, and even Beethoven had all at one time or another known the weekly routines and responsibilities of the church organist. Mendelssohn, on the other hand, remained exempt from such duties: In the first place he was financially independent and did not need the meager salary that most organists were paid. From early on, Mendelssohn's primary professional locus was the concert hall; by his early twenties he had already built an international reputation as a composer, conductor, and brilliant keyboard performer. Given the demands of his widespread musical activities, it would have been impossible for him to carry out the normal responsibilities of a church organist or cantor. Beyond the purely fiscal and social reasons that allowed him to avoid taking on a position as a church organist, there was also the question of temperament. Perhaps most important, he was simply not by nature religiously inclined in any traditional sense. He had grown up in a household that was resolutely secular in character, and it is consequently little wonder that he was left largely untouched by either Jewish or Protestant Christian theology.

Keywords: Mendelssohn; secular musician; organists

Chapter.  14304 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Musicology and Music History

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