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Mendelssohn: A Life in Music Paperback – March 24, 2005

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Editorial Reviews


"Without any question at all, the ONLY up-to-date biography about Mendelssohn, and also the fullest biography ever written about him, is R. Larry Todd's Mendelssohn: A Life in Music, which is well-written, and full of information about the musicas well as the circumstances of his life."--Steve Ledbetter, Orchestralist

About the Author

R. Larry Todd was hailed in The New York Times as "the dean of Mendelssohn scholars in the United States". A Professor of Musicology at Duke University, he has published widely on Mendelssohn and his time, and on nineteenth-century music.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 736 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (March 24, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195179889
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195179880
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 2.1 x 6.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #407,469 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

62 of 63 people found the following review helpful By Michael Cooper on November 17, 2003
Format: Hardcover
As a Mendelssohn specialist I pre-ordered this book, and have been working my way through it for the past few weeks. I cannot recommend it highly enough to anyone who is interested in this remarkable composer and his music. It has many points to commend it for scholars(extensive recourse to important but obscure archival documents, correction of major and minor factual errors that have persisted in all the previous Mendelssohn biographies, etc.), and just as much to commend it to general readerships: it's elegantly written, well balanced, informative on contextual, musical, and biographical fronts, etc. Fanny is arguably as present in the pages of this book as she was in Mendelssohn's life. And, not least of all, it's remarkably affordable. I am a former student of Professor Todd (having gotten my Ph.D. from Duke University in 1994), but can also say that I offer these remarks without any bias other than that of being one who admires the music and life of Mendelssohn.
If this reads like an endorsement, it is. I highly recommend the
volume to all who want to know more about Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy.
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Format: Paperback
Felix Mendelssohn lived only thirty-eight years (Feb 1809- Nov 1847) and yet he had a profound impact on the way Art Music continues to be enjoyed in our time even if he is himself unjustly too far from the public consciousness and his musical works not, while not unperformed, are not performed nearly enough considering their musical quality and artistic merit. He was a man of prodigious genius, manifold talents, and a genuinely gracious and generous man. All rare gifts in this world.

This excellent and much needed modern biography of this most important musician was written by R. Larry Todd. The author gave the book a perfect subtitle - "A Life in Music" because Mendelssohn's whole life, since his early accomplishments as a prodigy, was devoted to composing, performing, conducting, and championing past composers such as Bach and newer young composers and performers who shared his views on the musical arts. The book makes very enjoyable reading because of the way Todd intertwines the life and the music that came out of it. Mendelssohn, like some but more than many composers, wrote and modified pieces for specific occasions and for certain performers. I found the numerous musical examples to be well chosen and illuminating. However, if you cannot read music, you can still understand what they author is saying form his clear and to the point prose.

Felix's grandfather was the famous philosopher Moses Mendelssohn and his father, Abraham, was a prominent banker so Felix and extremely talented sister Fanny did not have to struggle to develop their talents. Abraham converted to Christianity and his children were raised with a Christian faith.
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23 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Dermot Elworthy on January 15, 2008
Format: Paperback
I bought the hardback edition which is/was a lot more expensive - wish I had waited! Actually, it matters not a jot; this book is great value, regardless of cost.

It took me three readings to absorb most of the contents; for this biography is densely written, full of fact and detail and without much prose for its own sake. Nevertheless, it is eminently readable with a flowing narrative style and in no sense is it heavy going. That it took me three readings is a (non)function of my failing intellect rather than a comment upon the authorship. Regardless of the serious nature of the subject, this book really is a "good read" in its own right.

One of this work's many strengths is that Todd paints with a very broad brush. His view encompasses the social history necessary to see the Mendelssohns against the background of their particular time and the author does a superlative job in portraying their circumstances in a largely anti-Semitic Germany. However, the focus always remains on this extraordinary musician with a creative life lived on so many levels and embracing so many artistic and intellectual pursuits. Felix Mendelssohn emerges as a rounded, developed figure and not the slightly colourless aesthete which a distorted history sometimes has chosen to portray him.

This is a scholarly, well-edited and proof-read volume; the only mistake I noticed was Wellington at Blenheim. (I'm not an American so might just as easily have put Washington at Bull Run . . !) However, from a purely personal standpoint, I should like to have had a little more information on the organ recitals given in England.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Ralph C. Schultz on December 15, 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Todd's research is comprehensive and well documented. He put together the observations of Mendelssohn's family and contemporaries with quotations of Felix in a style that makes one feel that you really know the man. The indices make it easy to find references to specific people and compositions. This is one of the best musicological treatises I have ever read. If you want to meet Mendelssohn, you must read this book.
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