Felix Mendelssohn (1809–1847) – German composer, pianist, organist and conductor, grandson of the philosopher Moses Mendelssohn and son of the banker Abraham (who on converting to Protestantism added ‘Bartholdy’ to the family name). Already as a child, Felix showed himself to be a brilliant pianist and an equally talented composer; he made his public debut at the piano aged nine and at seventeen composed his Overture to A Midsummer Night’s Dream, one of the most popular works of all time. Mendelssohn also made a name for himself by discovering for the nineteenth century the great compositions of Bach, whose St Matthew Passion he conducted in 1829, presenting the work for the first time since the Leipzig cantor’s death.
Mendelssohn’s phenomenal talents included extensive literary knowledge, artistic skills, a flair for writing, extraordinary musical memory and outstanding performance abilities (besides the piano and the organ, he also mastered the violin). Hans von Bülow, amazed by his works, hailed him as the successor to Mozart. In 1834, Mendelssohn met Fryderyk Chopin: ‘His playing on the piano has something about it that is so very peculiar to him alone – he related a year later to his sister Fanny – and at the same time it is so masterful that he might confidently be called a consummate virtuoso’.