Started the Bach revival
We owe him so much!
It’s hard to imagine Bach’s music falling out of favor. But that was the case as the Classical era began. Composers of the time were looking for a new sound, something more streamlined than the ornateness of the Baroque period. Bach’s music, with its intricate counterpoint and Sudoku-esque fugues began to sound decidedly old-fashioned. It was still highly respected, it just wasn’t in style. The tail fins of American cars of the 1950s are cool…you just don’t want them on your Honda.
And then Felix Mendelssohn came along.
Mendelssohn was determined to present Bach’s St. Matthew Passion. He greatly shortened it (some might less charitably say he cut it to ribbons) to keep the audience’s interest (normally it would take over three hours; sometimes its two parts are presented in two concerts). And in 1829, at the age of 20, he conducted it. It was a great success.
Here is the beautiful aria Erbarme Dich from the St. Matthew Passion, sung by Magdalena Kožená.