Mendelssohn’s parents were well-off, well- known, and well-connected.The Mendelssohn house was regularly full of visitors, and his parents’ social circle included prominent artists, thought-leaders and other members of the intelligentsia.
Mendelssohn’s mother gave Felix his first piano lessons.When the young boy showed prodigious talent as both a performer and composer, his parents offered him every opportunity to expand his skills. Mendelssohn began formal violin and composition lessons, and at the age of just 13 he was granted access to the Mendelssohn house orchestra, which began performing his creations at regular concerts hosted by his sociable parents. By the time he wrote this Octet, at the age of just 16, Mendelssohn had already produced numerous symphonies and was a published composer. But although his earlier works had been well-received, it is this Octet that earned him the label ‘genius’.
In this work, Mendelssohn draws on an endless variety of groupings to create a diversity of skilfully shaded effects. Structured similarly
to a symphony – yet retaining eight distinctive musical lines – the Octet reveals Mendelsohn’s talent for memorable themes set in stunning surrounds: from the brilliance of the opening allegro to the vigour of the finale via a contemplative andante and a sylph-like scherzo.