Catapulting into Classical

A headlong leap into music, history, and composing

Haiku Wednesday – Mendelssohn and Bach



Felix Mendelssohn
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.

The fascinating story of how Mendelssohn came to know the music of J. S. Bach can be read here.  More details on the 1829 concert and how it came to be can be read here.

Here is the beautiful aria Erbarme Dich from the St. Matthew Passion, sung by Magdalena Kožená.

Click here for more information about this performance.


2 thoughts on “Haiku Wednesday – Mendelssohn and Bach

  1. Hi!

    I’m greatly enjoying the blogs, and following all the links (but need to stop at some point to get work done). Norrington’s piece is very good, and I like his breezy tone too. Very interesting project- which I don’t much want to hear. Yes, there was knowledge and great appreciation of the keyboard and chamber music, right along (those evenings at Baron van Sweiten’s in Vienna had a huge effect on Mozart and Haydn), but the big choral and orchestral works languished until the Revival. Mendelssohn’s organ works are remarkably Bachian, but with his own harmony.



  2. Falling out of favor, fins from the fifties, sudoku-esque fugues. Yes. Addictive. Better than drugs. Thank God Mendelssohn just said no, or yes, as the case may be.

    Liked by 1 person

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