Mendelssohn was perhaps the most precociously gifted of all composers. As a child prodigy he stands out from other famous examples such as Mozart, Saint-Saëns, and Britten as he reached musical maturity so quickly – probably only Korngold can rival his precocious abilities. The two works on this CD are prime examples. Both were composed in the years 1824/5 when Mendelssohn was in his sixteenth year. The sheer effortlessness of the Octet, its textures, and the seamless way he writes for the 8 players has never been surpassed. Mendelssohn’s inspiration to compose a work for 8 string players was probably inspired by the Double Quartets of Spohr. However, the older composer deliberately wrote for two groups of 4 players, and made little attempt to meld the 8 into an orchestral unit.
The sextet is almost a piano concerto, and the dazzling writing he gives the piano illustrates not only Mendelssohn’s prowess as a virtuoso, but also how well he had studied his older contemporary’s music, especially Hummel and Moscheles.