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Felix Mendelssohn:
A Midsummer Night's Dream

When Felix and Fanny Mendelssohn put on Shakespeare's comedy A Midsummer Night's Dream to entertain their family, the two of them played all the characters! Mendelssohn's music for A Midsummer Night's Dream illustrates many of the characters and situations in the play.

Music heard in this episode:
Mendelssohn: Midsummer Night’s Dream: Overture

Other shows about Felix Mendelssohn:
About Felix Mendelssohn
Music Based on Shakespeare
Child Prodigy Composers
Women Composers

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About Felix Mendelssohn
2/3/1809 - 11/4/1847
Born in Germany

Felix Mendelssohn was lucky enough to be born into a rich family, with loving parents who encouraged him to be a musician. And he certainly had the right name. Felix is Latin for "happy."

Mendelssohn was born in Hamburg, Germany, and grew up in Berlin. His grandfather was the great Jewish philosopher Moses Mendelssohn, but Felix Mendelssohn lived at a time when it was very difficult to be Jewish in Germany -- there were all kinds of laws and taxes that applied only to Jews. Felix Mendelssohn's father Abraham was a banker who didn't want to deal with anti-Semitism -- people discriminating against him just because he was Jewish. So he converted to Christianity, and changed the family name to Mendelssohn-Bartholdy.

The Mendelssohn family held regular Sunday afternoon concerts at their house, so Felix grew up with music all around him. He was already a terrific pianist as a child, and started composing when he was ten. As a teenager, Mendelssohn had already written some of his greatest music. He was also a wonderful visual artist.

Mendelssohn was very close to his older sister, Fanny, who also played the piano and composed. The two of them not only made music together, they also put on plays -- like A Midsummer Night's Dream by William Shakespeare.

Mendelssohn loved to travel. His trips to other countries inspired some of his best music, like his Scottish and Italian Symphonies.

Mendelssohn also became well known as a conductor. When he was just 20, he put together and conducted the first concert of Johann Sebastian Bach's St. Matthew Passion since Bach's lifetime.

See other composers born in Germany


This Week's Quiz:

1. Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream contains two types of characters. One is human beings. What is the other?






2.Scherzo is Italian for what word?






3. A Midsummer Night's Dream includes what event?

A Birthday Party

A Dinner

A Concert

A Wedding

A Swim Party


Felix Mendelssohn
“Scherzo” from A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Composed in 1843
Performed by Slovak Philharmonic Orchestra
Anthony Bramall, conductor

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