When Mendelssohn Painted
Let's talk about Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847), a composer, pianist, organist and conductor of the first rate. He and his sister, Fanny, were well-known for their remarkable talents. Musical prodigies, they were, and they both grew into adulthood as master musicians, although some of Fanny's compositions were attributed to her brother. I mean, of course, they would have been. (*smirk*)
Among many things, Felix left us with symphonies, choral works, operas, piano music, and hymns ("Hark! The Herald Angels Sing", for one). If you aren't interested in classical music, you still would most likely have heard a Mendelssohn composition and may have even hummed it—"The Wedding March" is from his incidental music written for "A Midsummer Night's Dream":
Even if you are familiar with Mendelssohn's music, you might not know the man was also a painter, producing more than 300 paintings that survive today.
As a boy, he began drawing with pen and ink and later painted with watercolors. His family traveled extensively from Germany to Scotland, Switzerland, and Italy, and those visits inspired Mendelssohn's landscapes. Actually, a family trip to Scotland also inspired one of his most well-known symphonies, Symphony No. 3, known as The Scottish Symphony, which I will now listen to as I finish writing this post.
Fanny died at a relatively young age in May of 1847, and Felix was devastated. He retreated to Switzerland, telling friends he had no plans to compose anything while away and would focus exclusively on painting. He immersed himself in a series of landscapes there, and it appears he never composed again. He would die later that year, leaving behind a wife and five children—also, a bit of an extra relationship with the famous Jenny Lind, turns out.
Why is any of this interesting? My answer is that an artistic mind is an artistic mind, and it will find many outlets for self expression.
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