Featured Sale

Mendelssohn Viola Sonata
and more

Bookmark and Share

Buy Viola in Music's Collection of
13 famous tunes
Read more

Not many viola players (let alone other people!) know Mendelssohn Viola Sonata in C minor for viola and piano. It is a very satisfying work for both players and for the listeners as well.

Felix Mendelssohn was again another composer who played the viola, like Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Dvorak, Paganini, Hindemith, Schubert and many more. He was a child prodigy pianist and composer, and was also a conductor.

Mendelssohn short biography

Born in Germany in 1809, Mendelssohn too didn't live very long, only 38 years but by the age of 20 he had reached his musical maturity and by the age of 15 he had already composed 13 string symphonies and five concertos, together with other works. Many of his juvenile compositions were published only in the 20th century and therefore are not included in the usual numeration of his works. By the age of 10 he had already learned to play piano, violin and organ and was studying composition.

Mendelssohn came from a wealthy family, as his father was a banker, so he could afford his own orchestra that would perform his compositions during concerts given in his family home for their wealthy guests. Felix himself would play at the piano together with his four-year-elder sister Fanny. His sister too was very musically gifted but since she was a woman of the high society, her family prevented her from making music as a profession. Several of her compositions were published under Felix's name.

In 1821, when he was 12, he met the poet Goethe who was astonished at his precocity and skills at playing the piano. At the same time, Felix attended the première of Weber's ‘romantic opera’ Der Freischütz (that has an important viola solo) which impressed him greatly.

In the early 1829, he organized and conducted a revival performance to celebrate the centenary of Matthew's Passion by Bach, who was then not as well known as he is today to us.

In this year, at 20, he visited Italy and the influence of this stay can be seen in his 4th symphony, Italian, especially in the 4th movement, Saltarello. In Italy Mendelssohn met Berlioz who would later compose Harold in Italy, also influenced by the Italian environment and lanscape.

The viola sonata

Besides being mainly a pianist and a composer, Mendelssohn played the viola well enough to play chamber music with noted musicians. He composed this sonata when he was not yet 15. Therefore it is very likely that he composed it to play it himself during one of his family's home concerts.

Mendelssohn viola sonata, 1st and 2nd movement

Mendelssohn viola sonata, 3rd movement. Andante con Variazioni

The Hebrides ouverture

Mendelssohn also composed interesting parts for violists in his orchestral works, like for examples The Hebrides ouverture (also known as Fingal's Cave), which is of my favourite ones.

The opening wavy theme is played by violas with cellos and bassoon and proposed again many times throughout the ouverture by the violas only or with other instruments. In all the work the violas have an important roles, carrying the theme most of time.

He composed this work after a journey to the Hebrides islands, West of Scotland. The sea was rough and he got very sick but apparently was enough favourably impressed to be musically inspired. Listen to it, imagine a stormy sea and you'll hear it in the music.

The Hebrides ouverture also known as Fingal's Cave

Fancy visiting Fingal's Cave?

I once tried to go and visit Fingal's Cave but I had not organized the trip properly (it was before the Internet era), I just decided to go one day. I was staying in Glasgow, William Primrose's birthplace, at a viola congress. One morning I left by train but it took too long only to arrive at Oban, the port from which the boats depart to go to the tiny island of Iona, see where it is on the map. Arrived there in the afternoon, the boats would take more hours to reach the island so I could not go. Anyway it was a nice trip on the Scottish coast. So if you fancy going, plan to spend two or three days for that.

Other very famous works of his are his violin concerto, the Italian symphony and scene music for A Midsummer Night's dream, which includes his ultra famous Wedding March.

Buy Mendelssohn Viola Sonata
CDs and sheet music
and support Viola in Music

Go back from Mendelssohn Viola Sonata to Blog

Custom Search

New! Comments

Have your say about what you just read! Leave me a comment in the box below.
Share this page:
Enjoy this page? Please pay it forward. Here's how...

Would you prefer to share this page with others by linking to it?

  1. Click on the HTML link code below.
  2. Copy and paste it, adding a note of your own, into your blog, a Web page, forums, a blog comment, your Facebook account, or anywhere that someone would find this page valuable.

Custom Search

Play easily without pain &

Related pages

Read the book Read the book "Stage fright - Causes and cures", by Kato Havas, and play freely
Antonin Dvorak is another of the many composers who played the viola in orchestras from the age of 16 to the age of 30.

Antonin Dvorak
played the viola

Buy Viola in Music's Collection of 13 famous tunes (19 pages)
£7.99 and download them instantly
They are in their original keys, so you can play them in sessions with other instruments

Jesu, joy of man's desiring
Michael Turner’s waltz (2 versions)
The greenwood tree
The south wind
Fanny Power
Ye banks and braes
Skye boat song
My Bonnie
My love is like a red, red rose
Sportsman’s hornpipe
The road to Lisdoonvarna
Danny Boy (Londonderry Air)
Iron legs

Read more

Do you like
Viola in Music?

Support it by buying sheet music here

Download Sheet Music

Virtual Sheet Music - Classical Sheet Music Downloads

Buy Havas New Approach teaching DVD to eliminate physical tension musicians' injuries and stage frightBuy Havas New Approach DVD
Alessandro Rolla viola virtuoso & composer, one of Paganini's teachers

Alessandro Rolla
virtuoso viola player & composer, one of Paganini's teachers

Viola Concertos

Viola Concertos

Berlioz and Paganini: Harold in Italy

Paganini kisses Berlioz’s hands after hearing
Harold in Italy, Symphony with solo viola,
originally composed for him

Bruch's Romanze for viola and orchestra