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Felix Mendelssohn
String Symphony No. 7 in D Minor

String Symphony No. 7 in D Minor
Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847)


Felix Mendelssohn’s string symphonies date from early adolescence, when the young prodigy had been carefully mentored by Carl Friedrich Zelter. As professor of the Berlin Academy of Fine Arts and director of the prestigious Singakademie, Zelter had imbued the Prussian capital with an unparalleled musical life richly enhanced by his promotion of the old German masters. At the time, neither Bach nor Handel had fully achieved the status we allot them today. Zelter’s spearheading of the Bach revival was part of his appeal to the Prussian monarch Frederick William III, that music was an essential part of a cultivated man’s education.

Felix and his sister Fanny began lessons with Zelter in 1819, and the pedagogue’s strict guidance along the tried paths of the old masters proved effective. Both quickly demonstrated fluency in composing canons and fugues of the strictest counterpoint, and were equally versatile in producing solo keyboard works, chamber music, Lieder, and four-part chorales.

The string symphonies also date from this period. By the age of 12, Felix had already produced six string sinfonia, a genre reflective of his teacher’s familiarity with those by C. P. E. Bach, Mozart, and Haydn. Without winds and usually in three movements, the string symphonies were precursors to the four-movement symphony. Felix’s first six follow the typical three-movement structure; numbers 7, 8, and 9, however, extend to four movements.


  • Jagged, descending leaps in the opening Allegro, a throwback to the High Baroque style
  • The major-key Andante, marked from the opening amorevole (Italian, “loving”)
  • The inclusion of a triple-meter Minuet for the third movement, originally a French aristocratic dance stylized and included within multi-movement works of the Classical period; the contrasting Trio in B-flat major presents a new mood and material
  • The whirling Allegro molto, twice interrupted with a quasi-fugue, demonstrating young Felix’s excellence in contrapuntal writing

Notes on the music by Joanna Chang.