Everything You Ever Wanted to Know about Classical Music - Sunday 17 May 2015, 9pm

Catherine Bott turns the spotlight on one of classical music's greatest ever prodigies, Felix Mendelssohn.

Felix Mendelssohn

The range of Mendelssohn’s musical talents was extraordinary — he was a pianist, organist, conductor, violinist and viola player, and a composer who matured at an astonishing rate. At 12 he produced the 200-page full score of his first opera, and by age 16 and 17 respectively, finished his first two masterpieces, the Octet and Midsummer Night’s Dream Overture.

Mendelssohn was also fluent in German and French, and later in life, English. He read Latin and Greek. He was a poet who crafted some of the texts of his own songs, and a skilled draughtsman and painter who produced landscapes of a professional calibre.

This week Catherine Bott wonders, "Just what was it that made Mendelssohn such a prodigy?"

Among the pieces illustrating her theme, Catherine plays the second String Symphony which Mendelssohn wrote when he was 12.

The more mature composer is present with the 'Reformation' Symphony and his 'Scottish' Symphony while his love of choral music is represented by his championing of Bach – whose reputation Mendelssohn reestablished in the early 19th century – and by Mendelssohn's own triumphant finale to Elijah.