Mendelssohn, Felix Bartholdy

In September, 1845, Mendelssohn returned to Leipsic. His first appearance at the Gewandhaus received an ovation. His work at the Conservatory was a source of unfailing inspiration to his students. He taught no regular classes, but his lectures, enlivened by the fire of his genius, inspired every one present. He talked sometimes on composition, sometimes on technical matter, often illustrating by brilliant playing on piano and organ, of which he was the first master of his time, and often drawing on his beloved Bach for suggestion or example. His marvelous memory was stored with the works of the masters and his resources were unfailing. Among other things, he organized an orchestra among the students of  the Conservatory, which played at the Gewandhaus, and which has since become famous as one of the finest orchestras in Germany. Beside all his work at the Gewandhaus and the Conservatory, he worked on Elijah, and during 1846 conducted the Lower Rhine Festival, composing Lauda Sion for this occasion and, for the first festival of the German-Flemish Association which he conducted at Cologne, arranged a Festsang on Schiller's An die Kunstler. He went to Birmingham to conduct Elijah, which he had sadly overworked himself to finish, and instead of resting on his return set to work on some compositions for the King of Prussia. His last visit to England was in April, 1847, when he went to London and conducted four performances of Elijah with the Sacred Harmony Society. Soon after his return he received news of the death of his beloved sister, Fanny. Added to overwork this prostrated him, and was a direct cause of his death. He retired to Switzerland until September, then, after conducting Elijah at Berlin and Vienna, returned home. But a sight of his sister's home in Berlin had brought his grief freshly before him, and he never recovered his spirits. He wrote the string quartet in F minor, an andante and a scherzo in E major and A minor, and some parts of an opera, Lorely, and an oratorio, Christus. When apparently busy with plans and work for the future he was taken ill late in October, 1847, and died on November 4. For the great funeral given him by the Conservatory, Moscheles arranged one of the Songs Without Words as a funeral march, and it was played by the orchestra of the Gewandhaus when his body was being taken into the Cathedral.