The compositions of Felix Mendelssohn, a grandson of the philosopher Moses Mendelssohn, were performed more than those of any other composer in Central Europe in the mid-19th century. But within a few years of his death in 1847, his works were hardly played at all. Largely to blame was fellow composer Richard Wagner, who used Mendelssohn’s Jewish heritage to discredit him.
Wagner’s effort fell short, as evidenced by Stephen Somary, the founder of the Mendelssohn Project. The Project is devoted to tracking down and recording lost works by Felix Mendelssohn and his sister, Fanny. Somary spoke to Nextbook about the unlikely places (a farm in Japan, for instance) where pages of Mendelssohn’s manuscripts wound up; the extent of Wagner’s anti-Mendelssohn campaign; and why Mendelssohn’s critics are wrong.
Listeners in New York can hear some of Somary’s discoveries live on Wednesday, January 28, when the Mendelssohn Project presents 13 world premieres of recovered music at a concert in New York City.
Listen to the revised second movement of Felix Mendelssohn’s Symphony #4 (“Italian”), conducted by Stephen Somary. Music courtesy of The Mendelssohn Project.