A Portrait of Mendelssohn


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Clive Brown

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Since his death in 1847, Felix Mendelssohn’s music and personality have been both admired and denigrated to extraordinary degrees. In this valuable book Clive Brown weaves together a rich array of documents—letters, diaries, memoirs, reviews, news reports, and more—to present a balanced and fascinating picture of the composer and his work. Rejecting the received view of Mendelssohn as a facile, lightweight musician, Brown demonstrates that he was in fact an innovative and highly cerebral composer who exerted a powerful influence on musical thought into the twentieth century.

Brown discusses Mendelssohn’s family background and education; the role of religion and race in his life and reputation; his experiences as practical musician (pianist, organist, string player, conductor) and as teacher and composer; the critical reception of his works; and the vicissitudes of his posthumous reputation. The book also includes a range of hitherto unpublished sketches made by Mendelssohn. The result is an unprecedented portrayal of the man and his achievements as viewed through his own words and those of his contempories.

Clive Brown, professor of applied musicology at the University of Leeds, is a professional violinist and author of Classical and Romantic Performing Practice, 1750–1900.

“Clive Brown has succeeded in painting a comprehensive portrait of Mendelssohn and added new depth to our understanding of the history of his music. His book is a significant addition to Mendelssohn biography and is recommended for all music collections.”—Marian Wilson Kimber, Notes

“This fascinating book presents a rich selection of documents concerning Mendelssohn’s life and music, including some important new material.”—R. Larry Todd, Duke University

“What an engaging book this is. . . . A modern, compelling account of the composer. Essential.”—Choice

“This is the third biography of Mendelssohn I’ve read and it is the best. . . . I thoroughly enjoyed this book, mostly because I love Mendelssohn and he is presented here more fully than anywhere else. It is a ‘portrait’, not a biography as such. . . . You are taken back to his world, and you sense his place in it.”—American Record Guide

Chosen as an Outstanding Academic Title for 2005 by Choice Magazine
ISBN: 9780300207545
Publication Date: January 21, 2014
586 pages, 6 1/8 x 9 1/4
30 b/w illus.