Friday, 1 May 2009

265. Felix Mendelssohn - The Hebrides, "Fingal's Cave" (1830)


Title: Overturen
Performers: London Symphony Orchestra
Conductor: Claudio Abbado
Year: 1985
Length: 10 minutes


Mendelssohn's Hebrides overture, which is really not an overture to anything but a piece of mood music designed to open all kinds of concerts , is a really great piece of music, not only in concept but in execution.

The concept is what is particularly interesting about it, in a way it is similar to programmatic works such as Beethoven's sixth symphony or Berlioz's Symphonie Fantastique, it does not, however, have any kind of plot.

Mendelssohn substitutes narrative for a simple evocation of place, you hear the sea alternatively furious and placid beating against the rocks of Fingal's Cave. The whole point of the music is an evocation of place and the feeling that that place inspires. And it works perfectly.

Final Grade



From Wikipedia:

Mendelssohn first travelled to England at the invitation of a German lord after the composer's twentieth birthday. Following his tour of England, Mendelssohn proceeded to Scotland, where he composed his symphony number 3, the Scottish Symphony. He was engaged on a tour of Scotland with his travelling companion Karl Klingemann when he sent a postcard to his family with the opening phrase of the overture written on it. In a note to his sister, Fanny Mendelssohn he said: "In order to make you understand how extraordinarily The Hebrides affected me, I send you the following, which came into my head there."

Here's the recommended recording:


Antonio Jerez said...

Agree about your assessment that The Hebrides works "perfectly" a a piece of program music. I would rate it as the most perfect overture ever written. A work of true genius. Which is why it angers me so much when some folks still claim that Mendelssohn not a real musical genius but merely a very talented composer. Last time I read a dumb comment like that was in the swedish music magazine Opus 20.

Betsy McKenzie said...

Thank you for a beautiful post, pairing a lovely performance with one of my favorite conductors with your terrific photos. What an astonishing place! I was googling because National Geographic has an article about the Hebrides and has fabulous pictures, that make it look absolutely other-worldly. See them at