Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy (3 February 1809 – 4 November 1847), was a skilled organist, and during his visits to Britain gave a number of well-received organ recitals. These often included the improvisations for which he was famous (e.g., at his recitals during his 1842 tour in London and Oxford). In an article in the magazine Musical World of 1838, the English organist Henry John Gauntlett noted: His execution of Bach's music is transcendently great. His extempore playing is very diversified – the soft movements full of tenderness and expression, exquisitely beautiful and impassioned. In his loud preludes there are an endless variety of new ideas and the pedal passages so novel and independent as to take his auditor quite by surprise.
These qualities are evident in the organ sonatas, which were commissioned as a "set of voluntaries" by the English publishers Coventry and Hollier in 1844, and were published in 1845. Correspondence between Mendelssohn and Coventry relating to the Sonatas took place between August 1844 and May 1845. Mendelssohn suggested that Gauntlett undertake the proof reading, but this was in fact probably carried out by Vincent Novello.
The first public performance in Britain of any of the sonatas was probably given by Edmund Chipp in 1846 at the Hill factory in London. He also performed all six from memory in 1848. Although British critics rated the music highly, often drawing attention to its echoes of the composer's improvisatory style, Mendelssohn himself never performed any of the sonatas in public, either in England or elsewhere. He did however play them privately to the English music critic William Rockstro during the latter's visit to Frankfurt am Main in 1845, and wrote to his sister Fanny Mendelssohn in 1845 offering to play them to her.
The score is attached below, as well as a portrait of Mendelssohn & a drawing of Edmund Chipp. Attached is the announcement of the publication of the sonatas.