1824: Mendelssohn: Symphony No. 1 in C minor, age 15

THURSDAY, November 19, 2020 – 6:49 AM

Musikgymnasium Schloss Belvedere Weimar

(I found the performance below recently. It’s obvious these are young kids when you watch them, but I swear they play with the polish of musicians three times their age. The young conductor is doing miraculous things with people who in some cases look to me to only be in their teens, and the fact that they are playing the music of Mendelssohn when he was barely 15 years old is just unbelievable.)

Symphony No. 1 in C minor, age 15

This symphony was completed on 31 March 1824, only a couple months Mendelssohn’s 15th birthday. The autographed score was published in 1831.

Instrumentation

  • two flutes, two oboes, two clarinets in B♭, two bassoons
  • two horns in E♭ and/or C, two trumpets in C
  • timpani in C, G
  • strings

Joan Pagès Valls

I’ll be post more about this young conductor the moment I get more info. These young kids are spectacular, so what you hear is a bunch of kids playing the music of another kid, all under absolutely amazing leadership. To say I’m impressed would be the understatement of the new century.

The premiere

It happened at a private gathering on 14 November 1824 to honor his sister Fanny Mendelssohn’s 19th birthday. Think about that. Your older sister just turns 19 and you write a symphony for her birthday, then your father has enough money and connection to get your symphony played. Talk about the right talent being born into the right family!

Public premiere

Its public premiere occurred on 1 February 1827, with the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra performing under the leadership of its then-Kapellmeister Johann Philipp Christian Schulz.

The symphony was dedicated to the Philharmonic Society, who performed the London premiere on May 25, 1829, with Mendelssohn conducting. At that time Mendelssohn was still only 20.

A different 3rd movement

For this performance Mendelssohn orchestrated the scherzo from his Octet Op. 20 as an alternative third movement for the symphony.

I can understand why he did so, but his original movement is so good I don’t understand why it would even have been replaced.

Here is the review of this first public performance:

Though only about one or two-and-twenty years of age, he has already produced several works of magnitude, which, if at all to be compared with the present, ought, without such additional claim, to rank him among the first composers of the age…. Fertility of invention and novelty of effect, are what first strike the hearers of M. Mendelssohn’s symphony; but at the same time, the melodiousness of its subjects, the vigour with which these are supported, the gracefulness of the slow movement, the playfulness of some parts, and the energy of others, are all felt…. The author conducted it in person, and it was received with acclamations

There is a good link HERE to read more about the story.

4 thoughts on “1824: Mendelssohn: Symphony No. 1 in C minor, age 15

  1. I’m amazed at these very talented young musicians and also that Mendelssohn wrote this when he was 15 years old. I think he would be very pleased with the way this orchestra performed his music.

  2. I’m posting here a reply I receive from the conductor: Joan Pagès Valls

    “Thank you very much for your very kind words! You have a really very interesting and very well done project. It is really necessary, to be open as musician and you give this incredible possibility to your students.

    You can see more recordings of our orchestra in the following address:

    https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCy47F4z25OWuZh8JGDo9DqQ

    All the best

    Joan”

    (Be sure to check out that link, because there are more fine performances there.)

  3. I had maybe heard this symphony once or twice, it must’ve been on Sirius.

    I don’t remember the recording or performance being this good. These kids are amazing, they don’t sound like a school orchestra at all. No trace of it.

    This is just another bit of encouragement, that not all is dark or lost.

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