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(Jakob Ludwig) Felix  Mendelssohn (Bartholdy)

Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847)

Nationality: German | Jewish
Born: February 3, 1809, Hamburg
Died: November 4, 1847, Leipzig (age 38)
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String Quartet No. 2 in a minor, Op. 13, Ist es wahr? (Is it true?)

(for 2 violins, viola and cello)
7:51
I. Adagio - Allegro Vivace
7:47
II. Adagio non lento
4:38
III. Intermezzo. Allegretto con moto - Allegro di molto
9:15
IV. Presto - Adagio non lento
Duration: 31 minutes (approximately) - hide movement times
Composed: 1827 (age 17-18)
Published: 1827 (age 17-18), Leipzig: Breitkopf & Härtel
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9 recordings, 23 videos
32:02
Aeolus Quartet
8:12
Attacca Quartet
Part 1 of 3
7:49
Attacca Quartet
Part 2 of 3
15:08
Attacca Quartet
Part 3 of 3
32:12
Calidore String Quartet
7:39
Emerson String Quartet
I. Adagio - Allegro Vivace
7:54
Emerson String Quartet
II. Adagio non lento
4:44
Emerson String Quartet
III. Intermezzo. Allegretto con moto - Allegro di molto
8:59
Emerson String Quartet
IV. Presto - Adagio non lento
7:29
Juilliard String Quartet
I. Adagio - Allegro Vivace
8:20
Juilliard String Quartet
II. Adagio non lento
4:33
Juilliard String Quartet
III. Intermezzo. Allegretto con moto - Allegro di molto
8:27
Juilliard String Quartet
IV. Presto - Adagio non lento
32:17
Linden String Quartet
7:46
Mandelring Quartet
I. Adagio - Allegro Vivace
7:35
Mandelring Quartet
II. Adagio non lento
4:48
Mandelring Quartet
III. Intermezzo. Allegretto con moto - Allegro di molto
8:30
Mandelring Quartet
IV. Presto - Adagio non lento
7:11
Melos Quartet
I. Adagio - Allegro Vivace
7:01
Melos Quartet
II. Adagio non lento
4:41
Melos Quartet
III. Intermezzo. Allegretto con moto - Allegro di molto
8:31
Melos Quartet
IV. Presto - Adagio non lento
30:28
Shanghai Quartet

From Kai Christiansen:

Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847)

String Quartet in a-minor, Op. 13 (1827)

Mendelssohn's rise to mature talent was precocious and meteoric: he wrote the Octet at sixteen, the Overture to the Midsummer Night's Dream at seventeen and his first mature string quartet at eighteen. Despite the higher opus number and the occasional label, "No. 2", Mendelssohn composed Op. 13 two years before his next quartet, Op. 12 in E-flat Major, "No. 1." Op. 13 is astonishing by several measures besides the youth of its composer. It is lyrical, intensely passionate and utterly winning. It is also ingeniously constructed. The formal structure revolves around a tender love song that Mendelssohn wrote months before he began the quartet. The lied — Frage, Op. 9/1 — makes literal appearances in both outer movements while lending its spirit to the inner ones. A crucial motif from the song influences several themes across the quartet while other close relationships bind all the movements into stunning thematic unity. The finale literally quotes the previous movements eventually circling back to the very beginning to resume the introductory adagio and bring the song to a conclusion. Mendelssohn wrote one of the very first "cyclical" chamber works.

Yet another amazing facet is the unmistakable influence of Beethoven. Beethoven composed his ineffable late quartets between 1824 and 1826; he died in 1827 right around the time Mendelssohn wrote his love song. Mendelssohn deeply admired Beethoven and, unusual for the time, was intently studying these radical chamber works written just a year or two earlier. Mendelssohn was way ahead of his time in drawing inspiration from music considered inscrutable by many of his contemporaries. Op. 13 makes several vivid references to Beethoven's quartets. It is packed with intricate, extended contrapuntal imitation including numerous fugal entrances and a massive chromatic fugue in the second movement. The slow introduction, the surging primary themes, the poignant lyricism, the tonal effects and even the key signature point directly to Op. 132.

And then there is Mendelssohn's song. The title "Frage" means "Question" in English. The music begins with a three-note rising motif to the words, "Ist es wahr?" ("Is it true?"). Was Mendelssohn making a connection with Beethoven's finale quartet with its similar musical question "Muss es sein?" ("Must it be?"). As with Beethoven's musical query, Mendelsohn responds with a three-note answer at least twice: in the main theme of the first movement and again at the very end of the quartet. The connection seems undeniable. Regardless, Mendelssohn's questioning song is crucial to his quartet in terms of formal structure, thematic variation and even the dramatic use of recitative to punctuate his decidedly vocal orientation. In writing this extended instrumental "song without words", Mendelssohn became, like Schubert, a Romantic pioneer.

© Kai Christiansen. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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