Mendelssohn, Child Prodigy

Feb 28, 2019

Credit SC Public Radio/Mary Noble Ours

Musical child prodigies have always fascinated the public. Far more rare than the child prodigy performer, though, is the child prodigy composer. The first name that comes to many people’s minds when they think of child composers is Mozart, and it’s true that Mozart started writing music at the age of four or five. But of all Mozart’s great pieces, very few were written before his twentieth birthday. Felix Mendelssohn, on the other hand, composed works when he was fifteen, sixteen, and seventeen that are still considered masterpieces, and that far surpass anything Mozart wrote when he was a teenager. 

Mendelssohn was just sixteen, for example, when he wrote his famous Octet for strings, and seventeen when he wrote the Overture to A Midsummer Night’s Dream. It’s true that adolescents feel things very deeply and intensely, but it remains astonishing that a teenage boy could start with a blank sheet of paper and write music that will stir the souls of men and women for as long as music is played.

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