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Felix Mendelssohn - String Octet in E flat major, Op. 20

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Published on Oct 21, 2015

- Composer: Jakob Ludwig Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy (3 February 1809 -- 4 November 1847)
- Performers: Jascha Heifetz (violin), Arnold Belnick (violin), Israel Baker (violin), Joseph Stepansky (violin), Gabor Rejto (cello), Virginia Majewski (viola), Gregor Piatigorsky (cello), William Primrose (viola)
- Year of recording: 1961

Octet for strings in E flat major, Op. 20, written in 1825.

00:00 - I. Allegro moderato ma con fuoco
12:48 - II. Andante
18:23 - III. Scherzo
22:41 - IV. Presto

Mendelssohn’s Octet in E-flat major was composed in the autumn of 1825 (completed on 15 October), when the composer was only 16. He wrote it as a birthday gift for his friend and violin teacher Eduard Rietz (born 17 October 1802); it was slightly revised in 1832 before the first public performance on 30 January 1836 at the Leipzig Gewandhaus. Conrad Wilson summarizes much of its reception ever since: “Its youthful verve, brilliance and perfection make it one of the miracles of nineteenth-century music.”

The piece is particularly significant in Mendelssohn's career as it was one of two singularly brilliant works considered to be a signpost of his genius in his teenage years. (The other work thus identified is the equally brilliant "Overture to A Midsummer Night's Dream" from 1826, uploaded on this channel.) It was also the first string octet to be written as a true eight-part work and to this day remains the finest work in that form extant. It bridges the gap between Mendelssohn the chamber composer and Mendelssohn the symphonist in a particularly effective way.

The scherzo, later scored for orchestra as a replacement for the minuet in the composer’s First Symphony at its premiere, is believed to have been inspired by a section of Goethe’s Faust entitled “Walpurgis Night’s Dream.” Fragments of this movement recur in the finale, as a precursor to the “cyclic” technique employed by later 19th-century composers. The entire work is also notable for its extended use of counterpoint, with the finale, in particular, beginning with an eight-part fugato.

The original score is for a double string quartet with 4 violins and pairs of violas and cellos. Mendelssohn instructed on the public score, “This Octet must be played by all the instruments in symphonic orchestral style. Pianos and fortes must be strictly observed and more strongly emphasized than is usual in pieces of this character.”

The work has been compared to Louis Spohr’s 1823 Double Quartet No.1, Op. 65 in D minor, and stands out as one of the absolute highlights in the chamber music repertoire.

  • Category

  • Song

  • Artist

    • Arnold Belnick / Jascha Heifetz / Israel Baker / Joseph Stepansky / Virginia Majewski / William Primrose / Gabor Rejto / Gregor Piatigorsky
  • Album

    • Mendelssohn: Le songe d'une nuit d'été & Octuor à cordes (Les indispensables de Diapason)
  • Licensed to YouTube by

    • SME (on behalf of Les Indispensables de Diapason)
  • Song

  • Artist

    • Arnold Belnick / Jascha Heifetz / Israel Baker / Joseph Stepansky / Virginia Majewski / William Primrose / Gabor Rejto / Gregor Piatigorsky
  • Album

    • Mendelssohn: Le songe d'une nuit d'été & Octuor à cordes (Les indispensables de Diapason)
  • Licensed to YouTube by

    • SME (on behalf of Les Indispensables de Diapason)
  • Song

  • Artist

    • Arnold Belnick / Jascha Heifetz / Israel Baker / Joseph Stepansky / Virginia Majewski / William Primrose / Gabor Rejto / Gregor Piatigorsky
  • Album

    • Mendelssohn: Le songe d'une nuit d'été & Octuor à cordes (Les indispensables de Diapason)
  • Licensed to YouTube by

    • [Merlin] IDOL Distribution, SME (on behalf of Les Indispensables de Diapason); Public Domain Compositions, Sony ATV Publishing, and 1 Music Rights Societies
  • Song

  • Artist

    • Arnold Belnick / Jascha Heifetz / Israel Baker / Joseph Stepansky / Virginia Majewski / William Primrose / Gabor Rejto / Gregor Piatigorsky
  • Album

    • Mendelssohn: Le songe d'une nuit d'été & Octuor à cordes (Les indispensables de Diapason)
  • Licensed to YouTube by

    • SME (on behalf of Les Indispensables de Diapason)

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