STRING CONCERTOS 7 – Mendelssohn

Wilhelm Hensel (the composer’s brother-in-law):
Dr. Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy (1809–1847)

After Vivaldi and the ritornello, Mozart (et al.) and the double exposition comes the Mendelssohn method.

Though Mendelssohn can’t claim the entire credit for its invention, since Beethoven (but not in his violin concerto) had already paved the way in his two last piano concertos. Listen to this:

– the fourth concerto opening quietly with the soloist, followed by the fifth starting with a the bang of a cadenza for the piano, and finishing by linking its last two movements.

Here’s Mendelssohn taking Beethoven’s innovations on board in the opening of his two piano concertos (1831 & 1837) and also in the writing of a bridge between the commencing Allegro appassionato and the Adagio of the second concerto:

– where Mendelssohn can claim a newness of approach is that his soloists remains centre stage for much of the exposition, while Beethoven’s pianists soon cede the limelight to a full ‘Mozartian’ orchestral tutti.

So, it would have come as no surprise to the Mendelssohn’s contemporaries when his Violin Concerto (1844) also started with the minimum of orchestral preamble and went on to link all three movements.

This is a Heifetz’ rather up-tempo version of the first movement…

… and this, the complete work as performed by The Gramophone‘s preferred interpreter, James Ehnes:


1. Allegro molto appassionato (00:00)
2. Andante (12:14)
3. Allegretto non troppo – Allegro molto vivace (19:25)
Juanjo Mena, conductor
Detroit Symphony Orchestra


Autograph of the opening of the concerto

Note the tempo/expression indication on the bottom left – Allegro con fuoco [with fire] and not the Allegro molto appassionato [very impassioned] that appears in the printed score. Though quite what the qualitative difference would be in performance…


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