Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Wind Band Composer Snapshot: Felix Mendelssohn

Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847) German Romantic Composer/Pianist/Conductor

Felix Mendelssohn
- Considered a versatile prodigy who stood at the forefront of German music.
- His musical style drew upon a variety of influences Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, and Weber.
- Mendelssohn is known for being a bit conservative in comparison to some of his   contemporaries.
- His music reflects the tension between Classicism and Romanticism.
- produced a great deal work in his short life, including symphonies, concerti, oratorios, piano music, and chamber music.

Major Work for Winds:
Notturno in C, Op. 24(1824) 10 min.
- Goes by a few titles (all using Op. 24) including: Nocturno, Overture for Harmoniemusik, and the arrangement by John Boyd for modern wind band Overture for Band in C Major, Op. 24.
- claimed as one of the early original works for wind band.
- At the age of 15, Mendelssohn spent a vacation with his father in Bad Doberan, a spa near Rostock, Germany. This is where he composed Nocturno.
- The original instrumentation for Op. 24 was that of an expanded Harmoniemusik ensemble. 1222/2100 +English bass horn.
- This original composition for 11 was for the court ensemble of Grand Duke Friedrich Franz I of Mecklenburg-Schwerin, which happened to be a small wind band.
- the original music for 11 instrumentalists was lost before he could get it to his publisher (Simrock), but he sent a version For 23 winds and perc in 1838
- The revised version featured the “Turkish” percussion that was so popular. (see also discussions on janissary music)
- There is a suggestion from musicologists that the 1838 edition might have been Mendelssohn’s effort to imitate the orchestral color of Weber's Preciousa Overture (which features a small wind band playing a gypsy theme)
- In relation to form: The piece is reminiscent of a classical symphony’s first movement. The overture features a slow introduction followed by a fast (Allegro Vivace) sonata form.
- Mendelssohn rescored the work for German and British band instrumentations to acquire more performances.

Notes specific to the John Boyd Arrangement:
- Instrumentation: 3292/4331 +Pic, Alto Clar, Bass Clar, Cbs Clar, C Bsn, 2 Alto sax, Ten Sax, Bari Sax, Euph, sn drum, Triangle, Bass Drum, Crash Cym.
- Boyd’s use of the rediscovered 1826 autograph makes his edition based on the most authentic source known to date.
- The score is marked with * to show what was given in the 1826 edition.
- This arrangement can be performed by a large band, 23 and perc, or for the original 11.
- Leaving out the saxophones will recreate the 1838 fairly accurately.
- If performing the version for 11 omit m. 191-193 as they were added by Mendelssohn in 1838.
Performance Practice Notes: 
Tempo-  Andante should be like a human heartbeat(76-80) and Allegro should be twice as fast.
- Dr. Boyd has also given some extensive notes on specific measures in his score.
for the geography loving folks!

I bet a lot of people don't know that Mendelssohn wrote a bit of "Band Music" and I'm really glad he did! Overture for Harmonie, Op. 24 is a staple of the wind ensemble repertoire not only because it is one of the few original works for winds written during the Romantic period, but also because it allows winds to play a lively work by a composer who is respected by the music community at large.

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