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Mendelssohn and St. Matthew Passion

J.S. Bach composed his St. Matthew Passion in 1727. But for the better part of a century after that, the piece essentially disappeared, unknown to all but a few specialists. One of those specialists was the composer Carl Friedrich Zelter, who was the music teacher of a boy named Felix Mendelssohn. Mendelssohn was only about fourteen when his grandmother gave him a copy of the full score of the St. Matthew Passion – a score she had borrowed from Zelter…. 

The teenager immediately recognized the remarkable qualities of the music, and in 1829, about a month after his twentieth birthday – and 102 years after the first performance of the St. Matthew Passion -- Felix Mendelssohn led a performance that reintroduced Bach’s masterpiece to the musical public.  And that reintroduction led to the rediscovery and reevaluation of many other works by Bach, and to his music finding the exalted place in the public’s love and admiration that it’s held ever since.

A Minute with Miles is a production of South Carolina Public Radio, made possible by the J.M. Smith Corporation.

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Miles Hoffman is the founder and violist of the American Chamber Players, with whom he regularly tours the United States, and the Virginia I. Norman Distinguished Visiting Professor of Chamber Music at the Schwob School of Music, in Columbus, Georgia. He has appeared as viola soloist with orchestras across the country, and his solo performances on YouTube have received well over 700,000 views.