Mendelssohn was a rather conservative composer, who was deeply influenced by the music of Beethoven, Mozart, Haydn, Bach, Weber and Handel. Mendelssohn’s music is often very balanced, poised and orderly. He had a gift for melody and textural transparency; additionally, his early style emphasized formal symmetry over expression and emotion.  Moreover, Mendelssohn was also inspired by the poetry of both Shakespeare and Goethe, the latter of whom he met. Due to Mendelssohn’s in-depth study of classical composers, he avidly used classical forms such as sonata, rondo and minuet and trio or scherzo. Unlike Beethoven however, Mendelssohn did neither push the capacity of classical forms, nor the capabilities of his instrument (although a very technically proficient pianist). Moreover, as Mendelssohn matured, the influence of Romanticism was evident, and he felt that virtuosity should be subservient to musical expression. Additionally, he quite successfully merged classical forms with “richly expressive music.” This influence can best be illustrated in his overture to a Midsummer Night's Dream. Bach’s influence on Mendelssohn is evident in his use of counterpoint and form which is exemplified to its utmost in his Organ Sonatas Op. 65. The influence of Weber can be seen in his dazzling keyboard textures, for example, Perpetuum mobile in C Op.119. Moreover, Schumann deemed Mendelssohn “the Mozart of the 19th century” for his grace and crystal like elegance. Handel’s influence on Mendelssohn’s keyboard works is most evident in Sieben Charakterstücke Op.7; additionally, Beethoven’s “dramatic gestures and transcendental utterances” influenced Mendelssohn heavily. Mendelssohn’s Sonatas Op.6, for example, are very indicative of Beethoven’s sonatas Op. 101 and 106.

      In conclusion, due to Mendelssohn’s conservative style of composition, he is often overshadowed by greats such as, Beethoven and Wagner and in turn overlooked. This in part, as Rosen states, is due to his lack of adventurousness. Mendelssohn’s love of the past and particularly J.S. Bach (we can thank Mendelssohn for Bach’s revival), caused Berlioz to say that he was “too fond of the music of the dead.”  However, Mendelssohn’s music is not inferior due to the lack of daring experimentation and weighty “profundity” that emits of Beethoven’s and Wagner’s music, but rather, different. Mendelssohn’s music, in contrast, emits grace, “superficiality” and “elegance.”  In short, Mendelssohn’s music serves as a “beautiful interlude” within the 19th century.

                                                                                                                                                    Clinton Denoni

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