Felix Mendelssohn

Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847)

Nationality: German
Born: February 3, 1809, Hamburg Died: November 4, 1847, Leipzig (age 38)

String Quartet No. 6 in f minor, Op. 80

(for 2 violins, viola and cello)
7:23 I. Allegro vivace assai
4:25 II. Allegro assai
7:30 III. Adagio
5:45 IV. Finale. Allegro molto
Duration: 25 minutes (approximately)
Composed: 1847, September (age 38)
Premiere: . Leipzig Conservatory, ensemble headed by Joseph Joachim. Concert for 1st anniversary of Mendelsohn's death
Published: 1850, Leipzig: Breitkopf & Härtel
7 recordings, 20 videos
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7:03
Artemis String Quartet
I. Allegro vivace assai
4:25
Artemis String Quartet
II. Allegro assai
7:57
Artemis String Quartet
III. Adagio
5:44
Artemis String Quartet
IV. Finale. Allegro molto
7:37
Quatuor Ébène
I. Allegro vivace assai
4:35
Quatuor Ébène
II. Allegro assai
8:27
Quatuor Ébène
III. Adagio
5:40
Quatuor Ébène
IV. Finale. Allegro molto
7:07
Escher String Quartet
I. Allegro vivace assai
6:09
Escher String Quartet
IV. Finale. Allegro molto
27:43
Zapolski Quartet
7:20
Quatour Modigliani
I. Allegro vivace assai
6:38
Mandelring Quartet
I. Allegro vivace assai
4:02
Mandelring Quartet
II. Allegro assai
5:58
Mandelring Quartet
III. Adagio
5:29
Mandelring Quartet
IV. Finale. Allegro molto
7:04
Cherubini Quartet
I. Allegro vivace assai
4:12
Cherubini Quartet
II. Allegro assai
7:59
Cherubini Quartet
III. Adagio
5:50
Cherubini Quartet
IV. Finale. Allegro molto
From Kai Christiansen

Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847)

String Quartet No. 6 in f minor, Op. 80, 1847

sunriseMendelssohn's last complete string quartet is a dark tour de force celebrated for that blistering intensity that music writer James Keller calls "combustible." Throughout Mendelssohn's work one finds passionate drama and that signature nervous drive, high strung, anxious and ready to explode. But in the F minor quartet of 1847, the mood is unrelentingly sustained across three of the four movements ending with a virtuosic firestorm, a conflagration of musical angst. Connections with his personal life seem compelling.

At this point in his life, Mendelssohn was immensely famous and successful, but overworked, exhausted and in desperate need of rest and recuperation. Word arrived that, Fanny, his cherished sister and intellectual soul mate, had suddenly died of a stroke. Devastated, Mendelssohn took a vacation with friends in Switzerland and composed his final quartet dedicated to her memory. Two months later, Felix would follow the fate of his sister, father and grandfather, dying of a stroke himself at the age of 38. Whether one dares to connect this biographical setting to the abstract music of his string quartet, one cannot deny the musical effect: surging agony enfolding a loving elegy within.

Surrounding the slow movement song, are three bristling movements. The first is suspenseful sonata with all the nervous splendor of Mendelssohn's finest music dating back to his childhood masterpieces. Here, as in many places throughout the quartet, one hears the influence of Bach and Beethoven in contrapuntal textures that deftly weave throughout, occasionally jutting out in bare, exposed edges. The unrelenting forward momentum crashes through the end of the sonata form like an unstoppable, accelerating train. The "scherzo" brings no relief. Unlike his trademark scherzi of lightweight tensile agility, this one lurches and stomps recalling something of his more spicy tarantellas. The trio is hushed and cryptic, low rumblings suddenly overcome by the raging storm in the foreground.

The slow movement brings a welcome repose with a final example of Mendelssohn's sweet songs without words, a tender outpouring of love with such lyrical grace. But it is not without its own sorrow in the "wilting" opening line, the climatic surge of passionate plea, and the almost stark scoring for long solo lines that whisper over sustained pedal points.

The finale restores the pervasive panic of the quartet as a whole. Restless, dissonant, stabbing and surging, sharp waves of music crest above a few small islands of lyrical repose quickly submerged by a muscular sea pierced by the cry of a soaring violin frantic with mad figurations. We are lost at sea, destined to drown in raging waters.

Is this quartet a reflection of Mendelssohn's personal life, a tale of despair regarding his sister's death, a journal of dread dashed off while his life deteriorated? Or, as some have conjectured, might this have signified the beginning of a new style in Mendelssohn's music, perhaps something more professional than personal, a craft rather than a confession. Regardless, the quartet is unique and would become his final completed composition. In a lifelong album of music so supremely colorful, this page is etched and spare, a black and white photo that manages to be that much more clear.

© Kai Christiansen Used by permission. All rights reserved.


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