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Mendelssohn in Massachusetts

In celebration of the bicentennial of his birth on 3 February 1809




There were some of the best known works by Felix Mendelssohn-Batholdy (1809-1847) which received their first United States performances in Massachusetts or were among the earliest performances in the USA.


Mendelssohn music in the World's Peace Jubilee

First performances in Massachusetts

First performances in Boston




Mendelssohn's music in the World's Peace Jubilee



It was not necessarily the first U.S. performances but several choral numbers by Mendelssohn were featured during the "monster concerts" of the World's Peace Jubilee and International Music Festival held in Boston in June of 1872. There were five choruses from his oratorio, Elijah, also the chorus, "Farewell to the Forest (Abschied Vom Wald)."





Listed below are first performances of
Mendelssohn's music in Boston
compiled by music preservationist and composer,
Roger Hall


The works are listed in the chronological sequence of their first performances in the United States, or in Massachusetts.

The information was compiled from H. Earle Johnson's reference book, First Performances in America to 1900: Works with Orchestra, also from other documents.



First Performances in Boston

+ = First United States performance = 6 works
++ = First performance in Boston = 24 works


++Oratorio: St. Paul, Op. 36 (1836)
22 January 1843, Melodeon, Handel & Haydn Society, A.U. Hayter,
Soloists: Stone, Garcia, Emmons, Messrs. Taylor, Kimberly, Baker, Byram, Wetherbee.

--- St. Paul was twice repeated within a month to audiences which grew small by degrees and beautifully less. This was partly owing to the want of special vocal attraction, and partly to the inability of the public to appreciate music so lofty in its strain of inspiration and so scientific in its character. -- Perkins and Dwight, History of the Handel and Haydn Society, page 132.

++Concert Overture: The Hebrides, or Fingal's Cave, Op. 26 (1832)
15 March 1845, Odeon, Academy of Music, George J. Webb, conductor

++Symphony No. 3 ("Scotch"), Op. 56 (1842)
14 January 1846, Odeon, Academy of Music, George J. Webb, conductor
-- Orchestra of 45 musicians -- H. Earl Johnson

++Concert Overture: A Midsummer Night's Dream, Op. 21 (1827-29)
21 February 1846, Odeon, Academy of Music, George J. Webb, conductor

--- One point to remember is the fact that in the old days an overture generally meant a big, noisy, pompous, slam-bang affair, intended for a curtain-raiser to an opera, - a certain festive noise to be made while people were tumbling into their seats, or looking around etc. Therefore I can say that the Midsummer Night's Dream was taken up for the first time by our orchestra, all cultured persons who are familiar with that delicate, fairy-like composition may well smile to think that any but experts should attempt the difficult feat of playing it. Well, we tried it.
---Thomas Ryan, Recollections of an Old Musician, 1899, page 46.

Manuscript of duet arrangement from Elijah

++Oratorio: Elijah, Op. 70 (1846-47/ published in Boston in 1852)
12 February 1848, Melodeon, Handel & Haydn Society, C.E. Horn, Soloists: Mmes. Stone, Emmons, Thomas, Messrs. Thomas Ball (Elijah), E. Taylor; A.U. Hayter, organist

---Charles E. Horn was a colleague of Mendelssohn in England; Thomas Ball later became a repected American sculptor. --- H. Earle Johnson.
-- Mr. Ball, who made his debut, sang with feeling, power and dignity. After this brilliant beginning, Elijah continued its triumphant course until April 9 when it was sung for the ninth and last time during the season.

--- Perkins and Dwight, History of the Handel and Haydn Society, p 141.

++Concerto No. 1 for Piano, Op. 25 (1832)
9 December 1848, Musical Fund Society, George J. Webb, conductor, John Liptrott Hatton, pianist

-- Later, in the same concert, Hatton sang comic songs, and the next evening conducted and sang the title role of Elijah with the Handel and Haynd Society -- Ryan, Recollections of an Old Musician, page 79.

++Concert Overture: To the Story of the Lovely Melusina, Op. 32 (1834)
13 May 1849, Melodeon, Germania Musical Society, Carl Bergmann, conductor

++Concert Overture: Calm Sea and Prosperous Voyage, Op. 27 (1832-36)
27 May1849, Melodeon, Germania Musical Society, Carl Lenschow, conductor

+Symphony No. 5 ("Reformation"), Op. 107 (1832)
19 January 1850, Tremont Temple, Musical Fund Society, George J. Webb

++ Wedding March from A Midsummer Night's Dream
14 May 1850, Tremont Temple, Germania Musical Society, Carl Lenschow, conductor

++ Concerto for Violin in E minor, Op. 64 (1845)
3 February 1851, Melodeon, Mendelssohn Quintette Club,
August Fries, violin; with piano accompaniment
-- Performed by the Musical Fund Society on 22 February 1851,
with August Fries, violin soloist.

++Capriccio brilliante for Piano in B minor, Op. 22 (1832-33)
29 March 1851, Musical Society, George J. Webb, conductor
William Scharfenberg, pianist

++Symphony No. 4 ("Italian"), Op. 90 (1833)
1 November 1851, Melodeon, Germania Musical Society, Carl Bergmann

+ Overture to Die Heimkehr aus der Fremde, Op. 89 (1829)
8 November 1851, Melodeon, Germania Musical Society, Carl Bergmann

-- This Singspiel was sung later in a stage performanceu by an amateur group conducted by Benjamin J. Lang in 1876 at YMCU Hall.

+ Overture: Ruy Blas, Op. 95 (1839)
3 January 1852, Melodeon, Germania Musical Society, Carl Bergmann

++ Concerto No. 2 in D minor for Piano, Op. 40 (1837-38)
19 February 1852, Melodeon, Germania Musical Society, Carl Bergmann, Alfred Jaell, pianist

++Symphony No. 1 in C minor, Op. 11 (1825)
20 March 1861, Music Hall, Orchestral Union, Carl Zerrahn, conductor

++ Hymn of Praise (Lobgesang), Op. 52 (1840)
30 January 1862, Old South Church, Combined church choirs, Benjamin J. Lang, conductor; soloists not listed.

++ First Walpurgis Night to Goethe's Ballad, Op. 60 (1843-44)
3 May 1862, Unnamed chorus, Benjamin J. Lang, conductor,
Soloists: Mrs. Kempton, Dr. Langmaid, Messrs. Wadleigh, Wetherbee.
--- Twenty-five old Lang's first effort as conductor -- H. Earle Johnson.

--- It is rather late in the day to refer to the initiary performance in Boston of this splendid work, but we cannot allow the opportunity to pass, for most heartily thanking Mr. Lang for the pleasure he afforded us, and congratulating him on the entire success of his somewhat hazardous undertaking. --- Boston Musical Times, June 7, page 55.

+Cantata: Lauda Sion, Op. 73 (1846)
28 March 1865, Chickering Hall, J.C.D. Parker's Singing Club (40 voices)

++Serenade and Allego giocoso for Piano in B minor, Op. 43 (1838)
21 March 1866, Music Hall, Orchestral Hall, Carl Zerrahn,
Alice Dutton, pianist

-- Performed the next afternoon by the Harvard Musical Association, J.C.D. Parker, pianist.

++Forty-Second Psalm, Op. 42
13 May 1866, Music Hall, Handel & Haydn Society, Carl Zerrahn

++Trumpet Overture in C, Op. 101 (1833)
12 March 1868, Music Hall, Harvard Musical Association, Carl Zerrahn

++Ninety-Fifth Psalm for Tenor, Chorus and Orchestra, Op. 46
5 May 1868, Music Hall, Handel & Haydn Society, Carl Zerrahn

+Overture for Winds in C, Op. 24
1 February 1872, Boston Music Hall, Harvard Musical Association, Carl Zerrahn, conductor

+Oratorio: Christus, Op. 97 (1847 - unfinished)
7 May 1874, Music Hall, Handel & Haydn Society, Carl Zerrahn,
Soloists: William and John Winch, Myron Whitney; Theodore Thomas Orchestra assisting

--- The Christus made a deep impression. It was heard here for the first time with orchestra and grand chorus. -- Dwight's Journal, May 16.

++Chorus: To the Sons of Art (An die Kunstler), for Male Voices and Brass Instruments, Op. 68 (1846)
20 January 1875, Music Hall, Boylston Club with Theodore Thomas Orchestra

++ Antigone of Sophocles, for Men's Voices and Orchestra, Op. 55 (1841-5) 7 June 1877, Tremont Temple, Apollo Club, Benjamin J. Lang, conductor
Messrs> Dr. Bullard, Powers, Wilkie, Lincoln, Babcock, Allen Brown, Aiken; Prof. Churchill, reader; Arthur Foote, pianist.

++ Oedipus in Colonos by Sophocles for Male Voices and Orchestra,
Op. 93 -- 27 January 1880, Music Hall, Apollo Club with orchestra, Benjamin J. Lang; Howard M. Ticknor, reader.

++ Music to Racine's Athalia, Op. 74 (1845)
27 January 1887, Music Hall, Cecilia Society, Benjamin J. Lang; Boston Orchestra Club, Bernhard Listemann, conductor; Myron Whitney, soloist; Howard M. Ticknor, reader.








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