Arnold Mendelssohn (1855–1933)

Arnold Mendelssohn's intense interest in the music of earlier times was an integral part of his family tradition. He was second cousin to Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy, who was the first to have Bach's St. Matthew Passion performed again in 1827, ...

... thereby setting off a Bach renaissance. However, Arnold Mendelssohn never made the acquaintance of his famous uncle Felix, who had already been eight years dead when he was born in 1855 in Ratibor, Silesia, the eldest of five children. He displayed musical and intellectual talent from an early age, and wrote his first compositions while still in school. After discontinuing his law studies, he began studying church music and composition in Berlin in 1876. His first position as organist and choir director at the Protestant church congregation in Bonn was to be accompanied by artist friendships which were decisive to his further course of life. As one of a triumvirate together with Friedrich Spitta and Julius Smend, he came upon the idea of reviving works by Heinrich Schütz, which left deep traces in Mendelssohns understanding of music.

There followed years as music director, teaching theory and organ in Bielefeld and Cologne, where he also engaged in conversation with Engelbert Humperdinck, Hugo Wolf and the librettist Hermann Wette. The last station in Mendelssohns life was Darmstadt. Here he spent nearly 35 years from 1891 on as church music director of the state church of Hesse. He was responsible for matters related to organ building and maintenance, as well as for the advanced instruction of the states church musicians. Starting in 1912, he also taught at the Hoch Conservatory in Frankfurt am Main, where a young Paul Hindemith was one of his pupils. He received a large number of prizes, awards and honours for his artistic and educational work, although this fame vanished at his death in February 1933 when the Nazis came to power, obliterating the music of Arnold Mendelssohn, whose family had Jewish roots, from public awareness.

(Doris Blaich, from the booklet to "Arnold Mendelssohn - Motetten / Deutsche Messe", CD hänssler CLASSIC, 2012)