1842: Mendelssohn: Incidental Music to A Midsummer’s Night’s Dream Op. 61, age 33

Mr. Peabody Says:

This is where the famous “Wedding March” came from. Mendelssohn was 17 when he wrote the overture.  But the rest is from 16 years later. He used his overture as the start of something new, then composed more music with the same name. At the very end he used themes from that overture, but there are more ideas, and singers added.

Mostly the music is just cool:

But I was embarrassed to realize I could not always tell when a movement ended, or what it was called. So I added time stamps. Then I realized that apparently different performances include more or less music. Very confusing!

Otto Klemperer

  1. Scherzo, Op. 61 No. 1 – 12:56
  2. March Of The Fairies, Op. 61 No. 2a – 18:32
  3. Ye Spotted Snakes, Op. 61 No. 3 – 19:52
  4. Intermezzo, Op. 61 No. 5 – 24:36
  5. Nocturne, Op. 61 No. 7 – 28:36
  6. Wedding March, Op. 61 No. 9 – 35:45
  7. Funeral March, Op. 61 No. 10a – 40:48
  8. Dance Of The Clowns, Op. 61 No. 11 – 41:52
  9. Finale, Op. 61 – 43:44

Wiki shows these movements:

Why 12 instead of nine? And some different names? I don’t know. There seems to be some kind of different thinking about which to include for a purely symphonic presentation.

  • Overture
  1. L’istesso tempo
  2. Lied mit Chor (song with choir)
  3. Andante
  4. Intermezzo (After the end of the second act)
  5. Allegro
  6. Con moto tranquillo (Notturno)
  7. Andante
  8. Hochzeitsmarsch (Wedding March after the end of the fourth act)
  9. Marcia funebre
  10. Ein Tanz von Rüpeln (A dance of clowns)
  11. Allegro vivace come I
  12. Finale (with choir)

Instruments for the overture:

  • two flutes, two oboes, two clarinets, two bassoons
  • two horns, two trumpets, ophicleide
  • timpani
  • strings

The incidental music adds instruments:

  •  three trumpets
  • three trombone
  • striangle
  • cymbals


This is a VERY strange instruement that was in favor for some time in the 18th century. The ophicleide part was originally written for English bass horn. Mendelssoh replaced it  with the ophicleide in the first published edition.

Mendelssohn wrote the incidental music, Op. 61, for A Midsummer Night’s Dream in 1842, 16 years after he wrote the overture. It was written to a commission from King Frederick William IV of Prussia. Mendelssohn was by then the music director of the King’s Academy of the Arts and of the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra. A successful presentation of Sophocles’ Antigone on 28 October 1841 at the New Palace in Potsdam, with music by Mendelssohn (Op. 55) led to the King asking him for more such music, to plays he especially enjoyed.

This was followed by incidental music for Sophocles’ Oedipus at Colonus (Potsdam, 1 November 1845; published posthumously as Op. 93) and Jean Racine’s Athalie (Berlin, 1 December 1845; Op. 74).

1 thought on “1842: Mendelssohn: Incidental Music to A Midsummer’s Night’s Dream Op. 61, age 33

  1. I think that the fact that most of the instruments are distributed between 2 and 3 players keeps any instrument from overpowering and allows all instruments to shine while also allowing certain instruments to carry the piece in the direction the composer intended. I personally believe when a composer knows how to balance the instruments. They can make their songs that much better. Also sorry for late comment. Had to re make and post again due to it’s failure to post the first time.

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