First page of holograph manuscript score of Lieder ohne Worte by Mendelssohn. Performing Arts Reading Room, Library of Congress.
During his brief life, Mendelssohn produced approximately 750 musical works in nearly every genre -- from solo songs and works for solo piano, to choral and chamber works, and to large scale orchestral works, oratorio and even opera. As a virtuoso pianist and organist, it is not surprising that nearly one quarter of his works are written for these instruments; of his piano works, the series of Lieder ohne Worte ("Songs without Words") are the most renowned. His approximately forty chamber works include five string quartets, three piano quartets (which were among his first published works), and the Octet of 1825, generally acknowledged as Mendelssohn's first masterwork. His choral works include both sacred works (psalm settings, motets, sacred cantatas, etc.) and secular compositions. Perhaps inspired by the sacred choral works of J.S. Bach and G.F. Handel, Mendelssohn's own oratorios, Paulus (St. Paul, 1836), Elijah (1847) and Christus (1847) proved to be the most successful and enduring oratorios produced during the nineteenth century. At the core of Mendelssohn's body of work stand his works for full orchestra, represented by five symphonies, two piano concertos, the widely admired Violin Concerto (op. 64, 1844), numerous tone poems and overtures, and the incidental music to A Midsummer Night's Dream, which includes the famous recessional wedding march that is a musical fixture at nuptial ceremonies even today.