the Virtual Music Classroom

Music Activities and Resources for Kids and Teachers

Listening Activities
All of the Featured composer pages are taken from Kit Eakle's Listen to the Music.
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"Overture" to
A Midsummer Night's Dream





"Suggestions for using this page"


1. Sonata-Allegro form - AA = (Exposition) B = (Development) A = (Recapitulation)
2. Program Music for Shakespeare's play

Click here to hear the Scherzo from Midsummer Night's Dream


The Composer:
Felix Mendelssohn was born into a very privileged family. His father was an art-loving banker. His grandfather had been a famous philosopher and his mother read Plato in the original Greek. The Mendelssohn household was a meeting place for the wit and intelligencia of Berlin. Felix himself was immensely talented, and he was provided with every opportunity to develop his talent. He was every bit as precocious as Mozart. Mendelsohn composed the work we are listening to today at the age of 17. He dedicated his short life to promoting the classical traditions of music in a time when the world was turning away from those traditions. He introduced the St. Matthew's Passion by J.S. Bach to 19th century Germany by conducting it in a major performance after it had lain neglected since the composer's death. This performance was the event which brought Bach back into the public awareness.

Mendelssohn was a fabulously successful musician. He was in constant demand as a conductor, composer, pianist, and educator. It seems that success, when it taxes one's energies, as it did Mendelssohn's, can be as fatal as poverty and neglect had been for Mozart. He died of a stroke at the age of 38. He was mourned by huge throngs at his funeral. The world had lost one of its most illustrious musicians.

The Composition:
The overture, written in 1826, is a happy work of elfin enchantment. Four chords open the fairy world of Shakespeare's play. It is written in the classical sonata form. The themes are evocative of the aspects of the play. The opening theme is the fairy music stated by soft but lively violins. The second theme is the lover's theme. It is quite lyric in contrast to the first.

Next come the clowns. Listen for the "HEE-HAW" of the character, Bottom, who has the head of a donkey fastened to him in a magical spell.


- Can you hear a donkey in the music?
- Listen for the violins.
- What do they make you think of?
- They are meant to represent fairies.
- Do they sound like faeries to you???
- Which spelling of "Fai(ae)ries" is right? Prove your answer.
- Do a search under both spellings on the net. Compare results.


Find a Recording of Midsummer's Night's Dream. Before playing it for the students, discuss one or two of the above questions and put them on the board while listening in class.
1. Listen for the themes described above. Can you hear the donkey? Raise your hand when you do.
2. Listen for the return of the beginning chords. Raise your hand when you here them.
What do we mean by "chords?" [ans. "3 or more differently named notes sounding at once."]
3. After you hear the themes played, listen for them to be changed in the development. Pick one theme and raise hands when you hear it or part of it in the develoment.
4. Find a synopsis of Shakespeare's play "A Midsummer Night's Dream"
in the library. Read it to the students. Is this music appropriate for the story? Why, or why not?

This picture of Mendelssohn is by Aubrey Beardsley-a famous artist.
Do a web search to find out more about this artist. When did he live?

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