Chapter

Mendelssohn As Organist: Performance Characteristics

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/9780195394382.003.0004
Mendelssohn As Organist: Performance Characteristics

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This chapter focuses on Mendelssohn's organ technique. Whether improvising or performing his own works, or the organ works of Bach, Mendelssohn amazed his audiences by the clarity and brilliance of his playing — even on instruments with the heaviest action. As Henry Gauntlett observed, “One thing which particularly struck our organists was the contrast between his massive effects and the lightness of his touch in rapid passages. The touch of the Christ Church [Newgate Street] organ was both deep and heavy, yet he threw off arpeggios as if he were at a piano.” The pianist, Otto Goldschmidt (1829-1907), one of Mendelssohn's pupils, also noted that “his mechanism was extremely subtle, and developed with the lightest of wrists (never from the arm). Though lightness of touch and a delicious pearliness of tone were prominent characteristics, yet his power in fortes was immense. ” According to Joseph Joachim, “his staccato was the most extraordinary thing possible for life and crispness”.

Keywords: Mendelssohn; organists; organ music; organ technique

Chapter.  5641 words. 

Subjects: Musicology and Music History

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