Sunday, 1 February 2009

244. Felix Mendelssohn - A Midsummer Night's Dream (1826, 1843)


Title: A Midsummer Night's Dream
Performers: Seiji Ozawa, Kathleen Battle, Frederica von Stade, Judi Dench
Director: Seiji Ozawa
Year: 1992
Length: 58 minutes


There are few pieces as evocative and delightful as Mendelssohn's overture to Midsummer Night's Dream. Composed when he was only 17 it evokes the sound of fairies feet near the beginning and it's chorus incorporates a sound very much reminiscent of donkey braying as a representation of Bottom. And it is very catchy, I've had it stuck in my head all day long.

But the composition does not end here, Mendelssohn also produced his most famous composition for this work, the Wedding March which has been used endlessly in weddings since this was composed. Unfortunately it is hard to separate the music from the function it has been used in, still, it is a pretty powerful piece of music.

But a great highlight is the Notturno with its dreamy feel and its use of brass in a completely beautiful way. And it is all surprisingly cinematic. This is highlighted in this recording by having Judi Dench contextualising the music in hte relevant parts of the play, and what Mendelssohn managed in terms of evocation is splendid.

Final Grade



From Wikipedia:

Felix Mendelssohn composed an overture inspired by the play in 1826, intended for concert performance. In 1843, because of the fame of the overture, he was commissioned to write incidental music for a German stage production of the play. He added the Overture to it, and both were used in most stage versions through the nineteenth century. Among Mendelssohn's incidental pieces is his Wedding March, used most often today as a recessional in Western weddings. Between 1917 and 1939 Carl Orff also wrote incidental music for the play Ein Sommernachtstraum (performed in 1939). Since Mendelssohn was a Jew, his music had been banned by the Nazi regime, and the Nazi cultural officials put out a call for new music for the play: Orff was one of the musicians who responded.

Leibowitz conducts the overture:

Part 1:

Part 2:


Anonymous said...

Does anyone know how I could verify If I have an original letter of from felix M. my Uncle left me a couple older framed letters he was 94 and his roomate was a well to do concert pianist himself. the felix is easily read and the Mincel but the last part of the name looks like -ojohn(?daith??) is also it is clearly dated 14 july 1843 and before that it looks like tipzig does anyone know anyhting abouth this

Francisco Silva said...

I think your best bet would be to take it to an auction house, they usually have valuation services. Christie's and Sotheby's have offices all around the world, you can even contact them by e-mail and ask, send a picture. They have experts which can tell you. The datr seems right, Leipzig looks like the right place for the letter to have come from as well.

Anonymous said...

Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy is the extremely distant cousin of Karl Marx!