Mendelssohn and the Organ

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  • Format: Hardcover
  • Copyright: 2010-07-01
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press

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Although Mendelssohn was most famous during his lifetime as a composer, virtuoso pianist, and conductor, he also enjoyed an enviable reputation as a highly skilled organist. The instrument had fascinated - one might almost say mesmerized - him from earliest youth, but aside from a year or so of formal training at the age of about twelve or thirteen, he was entirely self-taught. He never held a position as church organist, and he never had any organ pupils. Nevertheless, the instrument played a uniquely important role in his personal life. In the course of his many travels, whether in major cities or tiny villages, he invariably gravitated to the organ loft, where he might spend hours playing the works of Bach or simply improvising. Although the piano clearly served Mendelssohn as an eminently practical instrument, the organ seems to have been his instrument of choice. He searched out an organ loft, not because he had to, but because he wanted to, because on the organ he could find catharsis. Indeed, as he once exclaimed to his parents, after reading a portion of Schiller's Wilhelm Tell, "I must rush off to the monastery and work off my excitement on the organ!" Mendelssohn's public performance on the organ in Germany was rare, and he gave but one public recital - in the Thomas-Kirche in Leipzig in 1840. In England, however, he evidently felt more comfortable on the organ bench and played there often before large crowds. Indeed, he performed as Guest Organist twice at the Birmingham Music Festivals, in 1837 and 1842. Given Mendelssohn's profound affinity for the organ, it is remarkable that he composed but relatively little for the instrument, and assigned an Opus number to only two works - his Three Preludes and Fugues for Organ (Op. 37) and his Six Sonatas for the Organ (Op. 65). A small number of organ works, plus sketches and drafts, were scattered among his musical papers; most of these only gradually found their way into print, and it was not until the late twentieth century that an edition of his complete organ works was finally published. This volume is intended as a companion to that edition.

Author Biography

Professor of German and Music Emeritus, University of Virginia and editor, Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy: Complete Works for the Organ, 5 Volumes (Novello, 1987-1990)

Table of Contents

Abbreviationsp. xv
History And Biography
The Berlin Organ Scene, ca. 1770-ca. 1820p. 3
Mendelssohn: The Formative Years, 1820-1838p. 21
Mendelssohn: The Mature Years, 1839-1847p. 51
Mendelssohn as Organist: Performance Characteristicsp. 78
Mendelssohn as Organ Improviserp. 90
Mendelssohn's Organ Repertoirep. 104
Mendelssohn as Editor of Bach's Organ Musicp. 119
Organ Parts to Mendelssohn's Oratorios and Choral Worksp. 139
Mendelssohn's Organ Parts to Handel's Oratoriosp. 149
Mendelssohn and the German Organ Community, ca. 1820-1847p. 166
Mendelssohn's Organ Works In Chronological Order
Organ Works, 1820-1835p. 181
Organ Works, 1836-1837: Three Preludes and Fugues for Organ (Op. 37)p. 208
Organ Works, 1838-1843p. 229
Six Sonatas for the Organ (Op. 65), 1844-1845: Chronology and Genesisp. 243
Six Sonatas for the Organ (Op. 65), 1844-1845: Manuscript Sources, Original Printed Editions, Registration, Slurs, and Tempop. 272
Six Sonatas for the Organ (Op. 65), 1844-1845: Commentaryp. 290
Six Sonatas for the Organ (Op. 65), 1844-1845: Receptionp. 329
An Organ Atlas: Organs on which Mendelssohn Performedp. 344
Mendelssohn's Organ Libraryp. 393
Major Editions and Comparative Tempo Charts for Mendelssohn's Organ Worksp. 405
Mendelssohn's Appeal for Subscribers to His Bach Organ Recital in 1840p. 415
Robert Schumann's Review of Mendelssohn's Organ Recital in the Thomas-Kirchep. 429
Mendelssohn's Correspondence with Charles Coventryp. 433
Bibliographyp. 457
Indexp. 473
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