Mendelssohn – Symphony No. 4 (“Italian”) in A Major, Op 90

by Max Derrickson

Felix Mendelssohn    (b February 3, 1809 in Hamburg, Germany; d November 4, 1847  in Leipzig, Germany)

Symphony No. 4 (“Italian”) in A Major, Op 90

  1. Allegro vivace
  2. Andante con moto
  3. Con moto moderato
  4. Saltarello – Presto


When Mendelssohn was just a wee and precocious lad of 12 years old, he met the great poet Wolfgang Goethe, and it was then that this elder statesman of German literature encouraged the young man to travel and see the world, and thereby learn.    [. . .]


The nicknames that Mendelssohn gave these Symphonies tell only of his inspirations from those countries, not of any storyline within them.  Judging from the copious volumes of letters he wrote during his travels, Mendelssohn was utterly in love with Italy– its history, its congeniality and its sun-soaked climate.  There can be no better a musical souvenir of his jubilant impressions than the opening of his “Italian” Symphony.  With a great pluck of the strings, the winds are set off into rapid fire motion, with a wonderfully bright melody in the violins above them.  Its glad sprightliness and vigor are infectious, and clearly reflect what Mendelssohn so loved about Italy.


[. . .]      The third movement Moderato sings with a tenderly light touch, with a more somber trio (middle section) reminiscent of those magical and evocative minuets by Mozart – the graceful music of a troubled heart.


The Finale is fashioned after an old Italian dance form called a saltarello, although some musicologists insist it is a tarantella –    [. . .]