1821: Mendelssohn: String Symphony No. 1 in C Major, age 12

Mr. Peabody Says:

I know what I was doing between the age of 12 and 14, and it was not composing symphonies. But Mendelssohn composed 13. This 1st symphony is in C major. And is around 11 and 1/2 minutes long. The pizzicato string effects in the 2nd movement are especially effective. It is effortless sounding.

Lev Markiz/Nieuw Sinfonietta Amsterdam

Listen to this for the sound.

  1. Allegro
  2. Andante – A minor
  3. Allegro

Nicholas Ward/Northern Chamber Orchestra

Listen to this to see the score.

Felix Mendelssohn wrote thirteen string symphonies between 1821 and 1823, when he was between 12 and 14 years old. They were tributes to symphonies by Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach (1714), Joseph Haydn (1732), Johann Christian Bach (1735), and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756).

It is logical to assume that the 1st was written first, so at about age 12, with the last written at age 14. However, without biographical info it is impossible to know for sure if these 13 symphonies are in the same order in which he composed them, so for now I’ll leave a window between his 12th and 14th years.

The idea that anyone could have written any of these at age 12 is absolutely frightening and shows that Mendelssohn was more advanced at that age than Mozart.

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