German prodigy Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847) was one of the most skilled and prolific composers of the 19th century. His profiency in violin, piano, conducting and composition gave him the reputation as a renaissance man, and even gave him the title as the "Romantic Mozart" - Schumann. Mendelssohn composed for several different genres including chamber works, concerti, symphonies, concert overtures, oratorios and works for keyboard. Mendelssohn published a total 3 piano concerti, however piano concerto no. 1 in G minor was his first piano concerto that was written fully in his orinigal musical style.
The overall structure of the piano is written in the traditional 3 movement form:
- Molto allegro con fuoco in G minor
- Andante in E major
- Presto- molto allegro e vivave in G minor
However, even though this concerto appears classically structured, Mendelssohn incorporates several new innovations that makes this a Romantic style piano concerto. For instance, in the first movement of this concerto, the tutti orchestral introduction is almost non existent since the piano enters a few measures after the orchestra. In addition, both the orchestra and the soloist develop the melodic themes together as the piece unfolds. Overall, the style that Mendelssohn writes with is very light and improvisatory, emphasizing a sense of facility. Because his piano concerti can also be described as showy and virtuosic, I think its fair to say that Mendelssohn can be categorized as both a classicist and a romantic.
Since Mendelssohn is often compared to Mozart, I think it would be interesting to compare their piano concertos side by side. Right off the bat, it is quite evident that Mozart follows a strict classical form, including frequently alternating ritornellos between the orchestra and the soloist. Additionally, the Mozart piano concerti follow an unchanging forumla for the first movement : (Prelude) Exposition, Development, Recapitulation. In Mendelssohn's case, there are traces of these divisions but in no way do they follow this exact formula. Lastly, a big difference between the two is the purpose of writing these concerti. For Mozart, it was purely to entertain the public. For Mendelssohn, I belive he wrote these in order to prove his progressive and unique musical style.
I have always been more familiar with Mendelssohn's incidental and programmatic works. In my opinion, I feel like his overall style stays pretty consistant throughout the different genres he writes for. For instance, even though they are very compositionally different, I can pick up similarities between his piano concerti and the incidental music in A Mid Summer Nights Dream. Both emphasize facility of the fingers and feature light textures, with closely spaced melodic figures.
Bazzana, Kevin. "Mendelssohn: Piano Concerto No. 1 in G minor Op. 25." Program notes. Toronto Symphony Orchestra, 2014. http://www.tso.ca/Plan-Your-Experience/Programme-Notes/Piano-Concerto-No-1-in-G-Minor-Op-25.aspx?ID=1161 Web. http://www.tso.ca/Plan-Your-Experience/Programme-Notes/Piano-Concerto-No-1-in-G-Minor-Op-25.aspx?ID=1161
"Mendelssohn Piano Concerto No. 1 in G minor Op. 25." Youtube video. Uploaded by brevardmusiccenter. Posted on Aug 8, 2012. Accessed on May 1 2014. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fZTNWI75eK4
"Piano Concerto No. 1 in G minor, Op. 25 (Mendelssohn, Felix)." IMSLP. Score. Accessed on 01 May http://imslp.org/wiki/Piano_Concerto_No.1,_Op.25_(Mendelssohn,_Felix) 2014. http://imslp.org/wiki/Piano_Concerto_No.1,_Op.25_(Mendelssohn,_Felix)
R. Larry Todd. "Mendelssohn, Felix." Grove Music Online. Oxford Music Online. Oxford University Press. Web. 01 May 2014. .[http:// <http://www.oxfordmusiconline.com/subscriber/article/grove/music/51795pg8>. .]