Movement 1: Allegro assai vivace
Movement 2: Allegretto scherzando
Movement 3: Adagio
Movement 4: Molto allegro e vivace
It was written in the first half of 1843 when Mendelssohn’s life was full of demanding projects, some in the process of failing, others just coming into being. He had accepted from King Wilhelm an invitation to direct the Music Division of the new Academy of Arts in Berlin, an institution designed to secure Berlin’s place as Germany’s cultural centre. If it had succeeded as originally planned, Mendelssohn would have become the most powerful musician in the land, as his appointment made him director of the Music Faculty, composer for the Royal Theatre, director of the Royal Orchestra, and conductor and organiser of the Cathedral Choir. In 1841 the Mendelssohns moved to Berlin where Felix began to outline his ideas to the king, only to find himself thwarted by a mass of court beaurocracy and a monarch who, having initiated the idea, was losing interest in its practical realisation. After two frustrating years in Berlin, Mendelssohn persuaded the king to release him from many of his duties, and he moved back to Leipzig to undertake a project dear to his heart for some years – the creation of a Music Conservatory, which opened in the Gewandhaus in April 1843. Mendelssohn himself taught piano, ensemble and composition; Schumann taught piano and composition, and after a while they were joined on the staff by Clara Schumann, the pianist/composer Moscheles, and the Danish composer Niels Gade. In the midst of that year’s domestic upheaval, responsibilities and publicity, Mendelssohn somehow found time to write some of his best music: the Variations Sérieuses for piano, the incidental music for A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and the D major cello Sonata. The New Grove Dictionary says of it that the Sonata ‘communicates a concentrated impression of the dramatic tensions and contradictions through which he lived during those years’.
from notes by Susan Tomes © 1991