Allegro moderato ma con fuoco * Andante * Scherzo: Allegro leggierissimo * Presto Allegro moderato ma con fuoco
Composed in 1825 when Mendelssohn was just 16, this Octet written for two string quartets was only premiered, in the Gewandhaus in his hometown of Leipzig, a few years later. By then, this gem, called “one of the miracles of 19th-century music” by Conrad Wilson, had already been revised, setting precedence perhaps for a trait that was to follow him throughout his very short life. Considered to be innovative since a double quartet was far from the norm, this Octet, variously called vivacious, vigorous, a masterpiece, has never failed to delight. The dedicatee, his violin teacher Eduard Reitz, was said to be so pleased with his birthday present that he copied out the parts by hand himself in advance of its premiere. It is telling, perhaps, the Louis Spohr whose own Octet preceded this one by a mere two years, is said to have called Mendelssohn’s Octet, now considered to be his first major success, ‘another kind of art’.