SYMPHONY No 4, ITALIAN, as well as the Symphony No 3, “Scottish” and the orchestral overture “Hebrides”, were inspired by the composer’s impressions during his travels in Europe between 1829 and 1831. The colourful southern scenery and vital atmosphere of Italy are immediately reflected in individual sketches, but the work matured gradually. In a letter to his sister Fanny from Rome, Mendelssohn wrote: “The Italian Symphony is progressing, it will be the most joyful work I have ever written, especially its last movement. I am not yet finished with the slow movement; I think I will leave it for Naples.”
After the buoyant first movement, the melancholy second one carries the atmosphere of the religious procession the composer observed in Naples, the radiant minuet in the third echoes as if Mozart’s imagery, and the finale combines elements of Roman saltarello and Neapolitan tarantella.
The symphony was completed on March 13th 1833 in Berlin, but at the invitation of the London Philharmonic Society it was premiered, under the composer’s baton, on May 13th that same year in London, in a concert, by the Philharmonic Society. Despite its undoubted success, Mendelssohn was not sufficiently satisfied with his work and made a new revision in 1837, but did not publish it and the symphony was not published until after his death, in 1851.