FELIX MENDELSSOHN-BARTHOLDY, born in 1809, came of a wealthy and cultivated family, originally Jewish, but adopting Christianity. His grandfather was the famous philosopher and scholar Moses Mendelssohn. His father, the banker Abraham Mendelssohn, used to say, after Felix became known, "Formerly I was rated as the son of my father; now I am considered the father of my son."
There were four children in the family, the eldest, Fanny, being gifted musically. Both she and Felix showed an early aptitude for music, and both possessed what their mother called "Bach-fugue fingers." Both displayed talent in composing, though at that time, for some unknown reason, such gifts were looked at askance in girls. Mendelssohn afterward printed some of his sister's pieces as his own, rather than let them lie in obscurity. But he met with retribution for this on at least one occasion. When he was presented to Queen Victoria, she tried to please him by praising his song "Italy"; but he had to admit, with shame, that this was one of his sister's compositions.
Mendelssohn studied under various good teachers, and even received help from Cherubini while on a Paris trip. By the age of twelve the boy was already a good composer for voice, piano, and other instruments. He admired Beethoven, and especially Bach. Weber influenced him, and Moscheles helped him. The result of all this was that when he was seventeen years old he produced some remarkable compositions. These included a string quartet in B minor, an octet for strings, and the short opera "Camacho's Wedding." But more important than all of the above was the overture to "A Midsummer Night's Dream," -- a work of such maturity and dainty charm that no other composer of seventeen years has come anywhere near equalling it.
In 1828, Mendelssohn began the earnest study of Bach's great