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Jewish Hall of Fame: Felix Mendelssohn

This week's Hall of Famer is perhaps the most influential Jewish composer and musician of all time, known as one of the most significant musicians of the Romantic period

By: Zak Edwards
Published: December 4th, 2013 in News » World
Felix Mendelssohn

Since the dawn of time, or at least since it's been recorded on paper, Jewish men, women and children have contributed to various industries and fields, from sports to entertainment to politics to porn.

With our Breakthrough Jew feature, we recognize those men and women who are up and comers in these various industries, identifying those great innovators and leaders in the contemporary world who are making a mark on society that will last a lifetime.

But what of those who have already made a significant contribution to the world as we know it? Those Jewish men and women who have greatly influenced the way we live today, but have never received proper accreditation?

Welcome to the Jewish Hall of Fame.

Shalom Life's newest weekly feature, the Jewish Hall of Fame is a way to recognize the remarkable advancements these members of our community have made on today's society. These are people who have truly changed the world, and have earned the respect and praise of the members of today's younger generation, many of whom are unaware that they even exist, let alone that they are Jewish.

As such, Shalom Life’s Jewish Hall of Fame is our ongoing tribute to the greatest Jews who have ever lived; be sure to catch us weekly with our latest inductees, and tweet us @ShalomLife with your suggestions.


Hall of Fame Member: Felix Mendelssohn

Born: February 3, 1809, Hamburg

Died: November 4, 1847, Leipzig

Famous For: Wedding March, A Midsummer Night's Dream, Symphony No. 2, Songs Without Words

Recognize this song?


For this week’s Hall of Fame, we look at Felix Mendelssohn, the German-Jewish composer whose influential Wedding March is played at wedding ceremonies around the world every day. But Felix Mendelssohn is famous for more than just four minutes of a bride walking down the aisle; his music and legacy has had a very torrential past, subject to fits and tempers much like the composer himself.

For his renowned musical abilities and lasting commitment to musical education, we think Felix Mendelssohn deserves a place in our Jewish Hall of Fame.

Born in 1809, Felix Mendelssohn (later baptized Jakob Ludwig Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy) was the son of Abraham Mendelssohn, a wealthy Jewish banker, and the grandson of philosopher Moses Mendelssohn, father of Reform Judaism. Felix was born in the same house as composer and violinist Ferdinand David in the then-independent city-state of Hamburg, but Felix did not grow up in his hometown. The Mendelssohns fled from Hamburg in 1811 in disguise, fearing French revenge for the role Mendelssohn’s bank played in breaking Napoleon’s Continental System blockade.

Instead, Felix Mendelssohn grew up in an intellectual household in Berlin, where he was given the best possible education in any number of fields and even attended lectures by renowned German philosopher Georg Hegel. Felix and his siblings were frequently visited by artists, musicians, and scientists who ran with the upper echelons of German society. It was during these visits that Mendelssohn’s natural musical ability was first recognized and, by the tender age of nine, he was playing chamber music publicly, probably for a horn duo. Mendelssohn was educated by some of the most impressive musicians of his time, including Carl Friedrich Zelter, Ludwig Berger, Marie Bigot, and Ignaz Moscheles (who admitted that he had little to teach the then only 14 year-old).


From a young age, Mendelssohn was recognized as a child prodigy: when Zelter introduced him to Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Goethe was more than impressed and thought more highly of Mendelssohn than Mozart. In one correspondence, Goethe wrote to Zelter “but what [Mendelssohn] already accomplishes, bears the same relation to the Mozart of that time that the cultivated talk of a grown-up person bears to the prattle of a child.” Quite favourable words for a child of 12.

Continue reading on Page 2

Related articles: Jewish Hall of Fame, Felix Mendelssohn, Composer, Piano, Music, Mozart, Bach, Wedding March, Midsummer's Night Dream
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