FELIX MENDELSSOHN Wedding March
Who doesn’t know this most famous piece of Western Art music? Originally written for a Shakespeare play, the Wedding March has become part of our social fabric,
Bridget gets all emotional as the season of hen nights, confetti, and best man speaches begins. “Daaa-daaa-da-dat-dat-dat-dat,” etc.
For this month’s classical instalment, it’s my great pleasure to present you with an arrangement of a work by a newcomer to this column: the German composer Felix Mendelssohn (1809-47), one of the finest exponents of Western Art music. As is typical in the pantheon of great composers, Mendelssohn was a musical prodigy showing great aptitude for piano, organ and compositional technique well before his teens. A lifelong devotee and champion of the music of Johann Sebastian Bach, Mozart and Beethoven, Mendelssohn’s music had a highly-informed, elegant and refined control of melody, counterpoint and harmony. This is evident throughout his enormous and diverse oeuvre of symphonies, concertos, sonatas, songs, operas, oratorios and hundreds of other works, which not only paid homage and drew influence from his artistic forefathers but also contributed significantly to the development of the Romantic period of music.
Mendelssohn’s most celebrated and praised works include The Hebrides, the Italian Symphony, Song Without Words, Violin Concerto in E Minor and Octet. However, it is within his music for A Midsummer Night’s Dream where he left his indelible print on popular culture. In 1842, towards the end of his life cut short by various health conditions most probably exacerbated by bouts of exhaustion and anxiety, Mendelssohn composed incidental music for a production of the Shakespeare work. Within this suite (Op.61), a short piece (no.9) was extracted and used at the 1847 wedding of Dorothy Carew and Tom Daniel in Tiverton, Devon. Although this is the first known use of the now ubiquitous Wedding March at a wedding, it is the marriage of Queen Victoria’s daughter The Princess Royal to Prince Frederick William of Prussia in 1858 that cemented its enduring absorption into popular culture.
Originally composed for orchestra, it is more common – as Mendelssohn performed it himself – as a solo organ piece. This, along with the clarity and succinctness of writing, makes the translation to solo guitar entirely appropriate. I’ve also managed to retain the key of C Major making it possible to play along to most recorded and performed versions. The piece, in comparison to the other arrangements in this series, is quite approachable, but will still need some work in the development of the famous crisp triplets and big triumphant chords. As ever, the tab captions will guide you through the various technical challenges. Have fun learning this piece and I hope it (if you will excuse the pun) gets a great reception.
It Is WIthIn hIs MusIc For A MIdsuMMer nIght’s dreAM Where he leFt hIs IndelIble prInt on populAr culture
NEXT MONTH Bridget arranges for guitar Mozart’s exquisite Marriage Of Figaro
Felix Mendelssohn: precociously talented compositional genius