Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy composed his Reformation Symphony for the celebrations marking the 300th anniversary of the "Confessio Augustana," the Protestant declaration of faith. Owing to various and only partially explained reasons, there was no performance in 1830, the year in question; it was only two years later that the composer conducted the premiere of his work, now heavily revised, in Berlin. There was only one more performance in Mendelssohn's lifetime, this one conducted by Julius Rietz in Düsseldorf; the composer had since distanced himself from his opus.
Conceived for the concert hall, the symphony formulates its theological references through the integration of various motives. This occurs in the finale, for example, in which Mendelssohn quotes the Luther chorale "Ein feste Burg" in the flute, from where it builds up to a triumphant principal theme. The strong extra-musical aspect must have been one of the reasons for the composer's later avoidance of this score, especially since Mendelssohn was becoming increasingly skeptical about explicitly programmatic music in the instrumental domain. The "Reformation Symphony" is being published in Breitkopf Urtext as a preprint of the Complete Edition. Next to the Düsseldorf performance material of 1837, two scribal copies have been examined for the first time; they transmit the main stages of the version of 1830.