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Mendelssohn goaded into speed composing Overture for Ruy Blas

Mendelssohn goaded into speed composing Overture for Ruy Blas

In 1839 the Theater Pension Fund asked Felix Mendelssohn to write an overture and a song for their production of Ruy Blas, a play by Victor Hugo. They hoped having Mendelssohn’s name attached to the production would bring in a larger audience. Mendelssohn did not care for the content of Ruy Blas (a rather violent and bloody play), but wanted to support the organization so he wrote the song. The Theater Pension Fund thanked him for the song and expressed disappointment in the lack of an overture. They then suggested it was their fault by only giving him a few weeks notice to finish the pieces.  The insinuation that Mendelssohn was incapable of writing both pieces in the time he had allotted irked him and resulted in the Overture’s creation. He composed the Overture for Ruy Blas over three days and had it in the musicians’ hands just before the final dress rehearsals and opening night.

Mendelssohn’s compositional mastery is still evident despite the last-minute nature of its creation, and the overture is a skillfully composed example of an early romantic concert overture which serves as an excellent curtain-raiser.

Hear this wonderful Overture, along with two other Romantic masterworks, at 2:30 p.m. on Sunday, February 3 at Pick-Staiger Concert Hall in Evanston. For tickets and more information, call 847-864-8804 or visit

  • Mendelssohn
  • Ruy Blas Overture
  • Schumann
  • Piano Concerto in A Minor

    Adam Neiman, piano

  • Brahms
  • Symphony No. 1 in C Minor


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Musical Insights

Free Pre-Concert Preview Series!

Friday, January 31 at 1:30 pm

Enhance your concert experience with a sneak preview — Composers come alive and their passions take center stage when ESO General Manager David Ellis and ESO Maestro Lawrence Eckerling take you on an insider’s tour of the history and highlights behind the music.

Meet our soloist, Jeffrey Biegel, at Musical Insights. He and our Maestro Lawrence Eckerling and David Ellis will explore the February concert program in depth.

The Merion
Friday, January 31 at 1:30 pm,
The Merion Crystal Ballroom at
1611 Chicago Avenue at Davis Street, Evanston.
FREE and open to the public.
Please RSVP to 847-562-5318.

Light refreshments will be served and casual tours of newly renovated apartments will be available after the program.