Detail from Gewandhaus in Leipzig [interior view]. Performing Arts Reading Room, Library of Congress.
By late 1834, at the age of twenty-six, Mendelssohn had risen to the top of his profession, gaining the respect of his peers throughout Europe as the consummate professional musician: a leading conductor, brilliant performer and teacher, a composer of major status, and musico-historical scholar. In that year alone he had entertained and consequently declined several coveted positions including the directorship of the Munich opera, a professorship at the University of Berlin, the editorship of the Allgemeine Musikalische Zeitung, and a correspondent's post with Robert Schumann's popular Neue Zeitschrift für Musik. During this same period of time a concerted effort by several members of the board of directors for the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra was underfoot to entice this prestigious figure as their conductor.
The Gewandhaus Orchestra, which began its first season in November of 1781, had developed over time into one of Europe's prominent ensembles, attracting the most talented composers and virtuosos of the Classical era. It was under the leadership of Mendelssohn however, who served as director from 1835 to 1847, that this ensemble was transformed into a cultural institution. Idolized from the beginning of the 1835-36 concert season, Mendelssohn the conductor displayed an indefatigable passion in his quest for musical perfection, and established a broadened orchestral repertory that ultimately developed into the musical canon that continues to be the underpinning of concert life today; his outstanding musical accomplishments at the Gewandhaus were publicly acknowledged and supported by Schumann in the Neue Zeitschrift für Musik. He sponsored several premières including Schumann's first, second and fourth symphonies as well as his own E minor Violin Concerto, and promoted fundraising through benefit concerts. Mendelssohn the composer and pianist also garnered the highest of accolades from his Leipzig following, performing his own piano concerti as well as those by Mozart, Beethoven and Bach.