Monday, February 9, 2009

Happy Belated-Birthday Felix!

Sorry man, but I've been kind of busy.

Hey, everyone. It's the 200th year of Felix Mendelssohn's birthday on February 3rd, 1809 and the whole world should be celebrating. And the reason we should be celebrating is for Felix's most righteous Christmas tune, "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing".
That's one fantastical tune that just comes blaring out in a triumphant fanfare to sing the praises of the...printing press?
Yep. The music is actually from Felix's "Festival Song", a cantata to commemorate Johann Gutenberg and his invention of the printing press. How cool is that? It's a secular AND religious tune. It's two tunes in one.

Now, you may think it's rude to refer to the great Jakob Ludwig Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy as "Felix". But as the most popular Romantic era composer, pianist, conductor and painter, he was a celebrity. Like Cher, Bono, Charo, etc... he's deserved to just have the single name.
From Vienna to England, Felix was in demand and loved by people like Queen Victoria and Prince Albert.

Like every classical composer it seems, Felix was a child prodigy who started composing at 10 years old and composed his masterpiece, Overture to Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream when he was only 17 years old! Whew! Talk about overachievers. No wonder he died at age 38 after a non-stop life of creativity.

I'm also fascinated by his sister Fanny, a talented composer and pianist herself who was unable to get her work performed as musical careers weren't considered proper careers for women during those times. Fortunately, he was able to present some of his sister's work under his own name. He always was very close to his sister (I have this mental image of them sittin' together at the piano crossing arms in a duet of "Heart & Soul") and when she died in 1847 he became depressed . Exhausted, ill, and distraught over his sister's death he died a few months later.

But, hey, we're here to celebrate his greatest accomplishment (for me, at least).

These kids can sing! Kidz Bop this ain't:

Hark! The Herald Angels Sing - The Vienna Boys Choir

....roll over Beethoven and tell Tchaikovsky the news about this version:

Hark! The Herald Angels Sing - The Fab Four

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