Norfolk and Norwich Festival celebrates the music of Mendelssohn

Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra

Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra - Credit: submitted

The music of Mendelssohn can be heard in venues across the city during the Norfolk and Norwich Festival. Arts correspondent EMMA KNIGHTS finds out about the festival's focus on the composer.

Sir John Tomlinson. Photo: Robert Workman.

Sir John Tomlinson. Photo: Robert Workman. - Credit: Robert Workman

Classical music fans will be able to enjoy a wonderful showcase of the works of Felix Mendelssohn during this year's Norfolk and Norwich Festival.

An impressive line-up of musicians and singers has joined forces to present The Mendelssohn Project, a celebration of the 19th century German composer who at one point was actually courted by the Norfolk and Norwich Festival to become the festival's director.

'It is a wonderful opportunity to find out about the range of Mendelssohn's work, to enjoy the extremely varied music he has to offer, and to find out more about this fascinating musician,' said David Parry, musical adviser to the festival.

He said the decision to create this special tribute to the musician came after the festival picked Mendelssohn's Elijah for the annual Festival Chorus concert at St Andrew's Hall – and when the chorus takes to the stage on May 17 it will be joined by soloists including Sir John Tomlinson, who is considered to be the country's leading bass, as well as the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra.

NNF15. Philharmonia. Photo: Benjamin Ealovega.

NNF15. Philharmonia. Photo: Benjamin Ealovega. - Credit: Benjamin Ealovega

Elijah, which premièred at the Brighton Festival in 1846, is said to combine Romantic lyricism and vivid melodrama in its depiction of scenes from the life of the Old Testament prophet.

The history of the piece also has links to Norwich, as Mendelssohn was said to have written the soprano role in Elijah for Jenny Lind, the 19th century Swedish opera singer who was key to the founding of the Jenny Lind Children's Hospital at today's Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital.

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'Elijah is a fantastic piece for the Festival Chorus to get their teeth into, and I felt not much of Mendelssohn's music had been done in Norwich recently,' said Mr Parry.

'I think it is important in the festival there is something special. The Mendelssohn Project is not just a few concerts strung together, it is a good survey of Mendelssohn's work,'

Norwich Cathedral organist David Dunnett. Photo: Paul Hurst.

Norwich Cathedral organist David Dunnett. Photo: Paul Hurst. - Credit: Paul Hurst

Mendelssohn was particularly revered in Britain during his lifetime, and between 1829 and 1847 he visited the country 10 times during which many of his major works were premiered.

As well as presenting Elijah, during this year's festival, the Mendelssohn Project will also give audiences a flavour of the great musician's symphonic and chamber works.

Mr Parry said: 'The thing that is extraordinary about Mendelssohn is that he had his feet in both the more classical camp and the romantic camp.

'There is this balance between classical formalism and romantic expression in his work. It is highly expressive but at the same time tightly controlled.'

NNF15. Philharmonia. Photo: Benjamin Ealovega.

NNF15. Philharmonia. Photo: Benjamin Ealovega. - Credit: Benjamin Ealovega

The Mendelssohn Project opened on Friday with a performance that saw the Norwich Cathedral Choir and Norwich Cathedral Players perform the Mendelssohn works Sechs Sprüche Op 79, Prelude and Fugue in E minor Op 35, and Hear My Prayer, as well as works by Mozart, Purcell and Ruth Byrchmore.

The project continues this week with performances of Mendelssohn's works by: Northern Chords Ensemble; Philharmonia Orchestra; Norwich Cathedral organist David Dunnett; and Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra and the Festival Chorus.

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Norwich Cathedral Choir. Picture: Paul Hurst.

Norwich Cathedral Choir. Picture: Paul Hurst. - Credit: Paul Hurst

The Mendelssohn Project events still to come in Norwich:

Northern Chords Ensemble presents Mendelssohn Chamber Works concerts at the Octagon Chapel tonight, May 13 and 14. All at 7.30pm. Tickets £13-£16 per concert or £32-£42 for all three concerts.

The Philharmonia is performing at St Andrew's Hall on May 15 at 7.30pm. Programme includes: Mendelssohn's Overture The Hebrides Op 26; Schumann's Piano Concerto in A minor Op 5; Wagner's Siegfried Idyll; and Mendelssohn's Symphony N. 4 in A major Op 90, Italian. Tickets £7-£37.

Norwich Cathedral organist David Dunnett will present a free organ recital at the cathedral on May 16 at 1pm. Programme includes: Mendelssohn's Sonata in A major Op 65 No 3; J S Bach's Trio Sonata No 3 in D minor BWV527; and Elgar's Sonata in G Op 28.

The Festival Chorus and Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra will perform Mendelssohn's Elijah at St Andrew's Hall on May 17 at 8pm. Tickets £7-£37.

To book, visit or call 01603 766400.

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