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Mendelssohn and His World

Mendelssohn and His World

Edited by R.LARRY TODD
Copyright Date: 1991
Pages: 428
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  • Book Info
    Mendelssohn and His World
    Book Description:

    During the 1830s and 1840s the remarkably versatile composer-pianist-organist-conductor Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy stood at the forefront of German and English musical life. Bringing together previously unpublished essays by historians and musicologists, reflections on Mendelssohn written by his contemporaries, the composer's own letters, and early critical reviews of his music, this volume explores various facets of Mendelssohn's music, his social and intellectual circles, and his career. The essays in Part I cover the nature of a Jewish identity in Mendelssohn's music (Leon Botstein); his relationship to the Berlin Singakademie (William A. Little); the role of his sister Fanny Hensel, herself a child prodigy and accomplished composer (Nancy Reich); Mendelssohn's compositional craft in the Italian Symphony and selected concert overtures (Claudio Spies); his oratorio Elijah (Martin Staehelin); his incidental music to Sophocles' Antigone (Michael P. Steinberg); his anthem "Why, O Lord, delay forever?" (David Brodbeck); and an unfinished piano sonata (R. Larry Todd). Part II presents little-known memoirs by such contemporaries as J. C. Lobe, A. B. Marx, Julius Schubring, C. E. Horsley, Max Mller, and Betty Pistor. Mendelssohn's letters are represented in Part III by his correspondence with Wilhelm von Boguslawski and Aloys Fuchs, here translated for the first time. Part IV contains late nineteenth-century critical reviews by Heinrich Heine, Franz Brendel, Friedrich Niecks, Otto Jahn, and Hans von Blow.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-3162-3
    Subjects: Music

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xiii-2)

    • The Aesthetics of Assimilation and Affirmation: Reconstructing the Career of Felix Mendelssohn
      (pp. 5-42)

      Since the end of World War II, attempts to restore the stature of Felix Mendelssohn and bring more of his music onto the concert stage have become increasingly frequent. Among the reasons for this phenomenon is the postwar German guilt about the Nazis who sought to desecrate Mendelssohn’s memory, suppress his music, and falsify his role in history in accordance with theories concerning race and art.¹ The postwar reaction to the Nazi campaign was significant, considering the extent of collusion by the musicological community in these efforts.² Interest in Mendelssohn since 1945 has spurred significant research and discoveries, which in...

    • Some Notes on an Anthem by Mendelssohn
      (pp. 43-64)

      In the early autumn of 1840, Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy paid his sixth visit to England. Occasioned by the English première of theLobgesangSymphony, this sojourn led to the creation of another, lesser-known work that was equally steeped in the English choral tradition. Just before returning to Leipzig, Mendelssohn accepted a commission from an eccentric musical and literary amateur named Charles Bayles Broadley, who requested of the composer a setting of one of his own metrical Psalm paraphrases, which he intended to publish in a lavish private edition. Serving as an intermediary between the two parties was Ignaz Moscheles, Broadley’s...

    • Mendelssohn and the Berlin Singakademie: The Composer at the Crossroads
      (pp. 65-85)
      WM. A. LITTLE

      Carl Friedrich Zelter, Director of the Berlin Singakademie, died in Berlin on 15 May 1832. On the same day Mendelssohn, then in London, allegedly wrote to Charlotte Moscheles, telling her that he had just received news of Zelter’s death and asked, “if you are quite alone at dinner and in the evening, I should much like to come to you.”¹ Three days later, in reply to a letter from his father (written on 9 May), in which the latter had assured him that Zelter was recovering, Mendelssohn expressed his relief, but also prayed, “May God grant that by now Zelter...

    • The Power of Class: Fanny Hensel
      (pp. 86-99)

      The British music critic is speaking, of course, of Fanny HenselnéeMendelssohn Bartholdy,² the older sister of Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy. The “accomplished” pianist gave only one public performance: a benefit concert in 1836; the “gifted” composer lived to see publication of only forty-two out of some four hundred works. Unlike her brother’s music, hers was known only to a small circle and heard only at home musicales. When Fanny Hensel finally summoned up the courage to publish her work, defying the brother who disapproved of professional music making by a woman, sudden death cheated her of the satisfaction and...

    • Samplings
      (pp. 100-120)

      Pronouncements about the beauty of a piece of music may be informative as to the pronouncer’s predilections, but are likely to yield little else of use—either to their utterer or to those thus addressed. No matter how emphatic such vociferations may sound, they are nonetheless bound to lack substance, unless whatever may be deemed beautiful is specifically defined, placed within a particular context, and gauged within the larger, overall, manifold dimensions of a composition. Each of us is apt to keep within easy recall a number of “places” in pieces of music that strike us as especially beautiful. Sooner...

    • Elijah, Johann Sebastian Bach, and the New Covenant: On the Aria “Es ist genug” in Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy’s Oratorio Elijah
      (pp. 121-136)

      The oratorioElijahby Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy includes a section in the second part that attracts our interest primarily because in musical terms it follows unusually closely a work of Johann Sebastian Bach. I refer to the aria “Es ist genug,” sung by Elijah, resigned and lonely, after his persecution and Bight into the desert. It is evident that the musical model was the aria “Es ist vollbracht,” from Bach’sSt. John Passion.

      This relationship may long have been familiar to a few connoisseurs, but oddly enough, it has been largely overlooked in the published literature on Mendelssohn and Elijah;² and...

    • The Incidental Politics to Mendelssohn’s Antigone
      (pp. 137-157)

      “Of all the masterpieces of the classical and the modern world—and I know nearly all of them and you should and can—theAntigoneseems to me to be the most magnificent and satisfying work of art of this kind.” These confident words are Hegel’s, spoken in the conclusion to theLectures on Aesthetics(given between 1823 and 1829, published posthumously in 1835).¹ Hegel’s judgment remained uncontested for a century. With reference to it, George Steiner began his 1984 bookAntigoneswith the suggestion that from about 1790 (the year of Friedrich Schlegel’sHistory of Attic Tragedy) to the...

    • The Unfinished Mendelssohn
      (pp. 158-184)

      When Robert Schumann lauded Mendelssohn in 1840 as the “Mozart of the nineteenth century,”¹ he acknowledged Mendelssohn as an enormously gifted musician who, having developed as a child prodigy, was blessed with a remarkable facility at composition. Five years before, Schumann had marveled at the arrival in Leipzig of “Meritis,” as he dubbed Mendelssohn, to take up the leadership of the Gewandhaus Orchestra. Here was the composer of the Octet and theMidsummer Night’s DreamOverture (completed in Mendelssohn’s sixteenth and seventeenth years), firmly established at the forefront of European music, who in 1836 would release the oratorioSt. Paul,...


    • Conversations with Felix Mendelssohn
      (pp. 187-205)

      Johann Christian Lobe (1797–1881) was born in Weimar, where he played in the court orchestra, composed operas, and befriended Goethe, at whose home he first met Mendelssohn, in November 1821. On that occasion Lobe participated in a performance of one of the young composer’s piano quartets, presented in the company of Goethe and Carl Friedrich Zelter (seeDie Gartenlaube1 [1867]: 4-8). In 1842 Lobe arrived in Leipzig; from 1846 to 1848 he served as the editor of theAllgemeine musikalische Zeitung.

      The conversations with Mendelssohn that Lobe recorded in his diary presumably occurred between 1842 and 1847—but...

    • From the Memoirs of Adolf Bernhard Marx
      (pp. 206-220)

      Adolf Bernhard Marx (1795?–1866), noted German music theorist, studied in Berlin with Mendelssohn’s composition teacher, Carl Friedrich Zelter. As editor of theBerliner allgemeine musikalische Zeitung(1824–1830), Marx contributed several articles about Beethoven, programmatic music, and aesthetics. In 1830, on Mendelssohn’s recommendation, he was appointed professor of music at the University of Berlin. Marx’s magnum opus is generally regarded to be theLehre von der musikalischen Komposition(Leipzig, 1837–1847), which contains a widely influential discussion of ternary sonata form. In 1832 Mendelssohn prepared a libretto for Marx’s oratorioMose,but declined to perform the work when it...

    • Reminiscences of Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy
      (pp. 221-236)

      Among the many friends with whom Mendelssohn maintained a regular correspondence was Julius Schubring (1806–1889), who arrived in 1825 in Berlin, where he became a pupil of Schleiermacher at the University. After returning to Dessau in 1830, he was appointed pastor of the Church of St. George; later he was awarded an honorary doctorate of theology from the University of Halle. In 1832 Mendelssohn turned to Schubring for assistance in preparing the libretto of his first oratorio,St. Paul,which was premièred in Düisseldorf in 1836. Schubring also collaborated on Mendelssohn’s second oratorio,Elijah,first heard at the Birmingham...

    • Reminiscences of Mendelssohn by His English Pupil
      (pp. 237-251)

      The son of the English glee composer William Horsley (1774–1858), Charles Edward Horsley (1822–1876) first met Mendelssohn in 1832 in London. After a period of study in Kassel, Horsley moved to Leipzig in 1841; there he undertook composition lessons with Mendelssohn until 1843, when he returned to London. Horsley’s reminiscences provide little-known glimpses of Mendelssohn as composer, pianist, organist, and conductor, and of concert life in Germany and England during the 1830s and 1840s. The panegyric tone of Horsley’s prose is representative of the Mendelssohn worship that developed in England after the composer’s death in 1847. [ed.]


    • From the Memoirs of F. Max Müller
      (pp. 252-258)

      The son of Wilhelm Müller, the poet of Schubert’sSchöne MüllerinandWinterreise,Max Müller (1823–1900) studied Sanskrit and comparative philology at the Universities of Leipzig and Berlin. With the backing of the Baron von Bunsen, he prepared an edition of theRig Veda,which was published by Oxford University Press in 1846.

      As a youth Müller studied music with a pupil of Friedrich Schneider in Dessau; when he arrived in Leipzig, Mendelssohn advised him to “keep to Greek and Latin.” In later years, Müller’s musical tastes remained conservative, as he himself admitted: “I have passed through a long...

    • From the Memoirs of Ernst Rudorff
      (pp. 259-272)

      The memoirs of Ernst Rudorff (1840–1916), entitledAus den Tagen der Romantik: Ein Bildnis einer deutschen Familie,were edited by his daughter and published in Leipzig in 1938, but the pages on the Mendelssohn family were omitted from the published book. They remained in typescript and appear here for the first time.¹Aus den Tagen der Romantikwas based on reminiscences, published letters, family records, and the diaries of Ernst Rudorff’s father, Adolph Rudorff (1803–1873), a professor of jurisprudence at the Berlin University; his mother, Friederike Dorothea Elisabeth RudorffnéePistor (1808–1887), known as Betty; and his...


    • Letters from Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy to Aloys Fuchs
      (pp. 275-309)

      The celebrated critic Eduard Hanslick (1825–1904) played a crucial role in Viennese musical life of the second half of the nineteenth century. Today he is chiefly remembered as the author of a treatise on musical aesthetics,Vom Musikalisch-Schönen (On the Beautiful in Music),which appeared in 1854 and ran to many editions; and as the arch supporter of Brahms and the persistent detractor of Wagner, Liszt, and the movement known asZukunftsmusik(Music of the Future), for which role Hanslick was parodied in Wagner’sDie Meistersingeras Beckmesser. Hanslick’s treatise propounded a view of music as an absolute, ultimately...

    • Mendelssohn as Teacher With Previously Unpublished Letters from Mendelssohn to Wilhelm v. Boguslawski
      (pp. 310-338)

      As a teacher, Mendelssohn is chiefly remembered for his role in founding the Leipzig Conservatory, which admitted its first class of students in 1843. Throughout his career, however, he maintained an active correspondence with young composers seeking his advice. The little-knownBriefwechselwith Wilhelm von Boguslawski, a civil servant in Breslau, offers an especially rewarding glimpse into Mendelssohn’s critical approach to composition spanning the years from 1823 to 1842. At the center of Mendelssohn’s interest are the scores of operas that Boguslawski submitted for his review. Mendelssohn’s critiques, inevitably precise and to the point, shed light on his own views...


    • Robert Schumann with Reference to Mendelssohn-Bartholdy and the Development of Modern Music in General
      (pp. 341-351)

      In 1844 Robert Schumann retired as editor of theNeue Zeitschrift für Musik,the journal he had founded in 1834 and developed to promote high critical standards for German musical life. By the beginning of 1845 the journal’s editorial mantle had passed to Franz Brendel (1811–1868), who gradually reoriented the journal into an organ for the newer aesthetic ideals of Wagner and Liszt and of their socalledZukunftsmusik(“Music of the Future”). Brendel had studied Hegelian philosophy at the University of Leipzig, and, beginning in 1846, gave lectures in the history of music at the Leipzig Conservatory.

      For Brendel...

    • Heinrich Heine on Mendelssohn
      (pp. 352-363)

      Heinrich Heine (1797–1856) was among the most important literary figures of nineteenth-century Germany. Like Mendelssohn, Heine was born a Jew. He experienced much more of a Jewish education than Felix Mendelssohn, however, and his relationship to his Jewish identity was far more complex. Heine converted in 1825 as an adult, not as a child. In 1850 he characterized his ambivalent relationship to Judaism by declaring that he never made a secret of his Jewishness because he had never stopped being Jewish. Yet Heine penned some of the most severely self-critical and sarcastic prose about Jews and their predicaments at...

    • On F. Mendelssohn-Bartholdy’s Oratorio Elijah
      (pp. 364-381)

      The remarkably versatile classicist-philologist-archaeologist Otto Jahn (1813–1869) is chiefly remembered today as the author of the first full-scale critical biography of Mozart (W. A.Mozart[Leipzig, 1856–1859]), the idea for which was conceived during a conversation Jahn had with Professor Gustav Hartenstein at Mendelssohn’s funeral in November 1847. Mendelssohn himself had corresponded with Jahn concerning the composer’s ongoing search for a suitable opera libretto (see S. Grossman-Vendrey,Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy und die Musik der Vergangenheit[Regensburg, 1969], pp. 215—16). For his part, Jahn had published a study of Mendelssohn’s first oratorio,St. Paul (Über F. Mendelssohn Bartholdy’s...

    • On Mendelssohn and Some of His Contemporary Critics
      (pp. 382-389)

      One sign of the shifting attitudes toward Mendelssohn in the closing decades of the nineteenth century was the appearance in 1875 of Friedrich Niecks’s “On Mendelssohn and Some of His Contemporary Critics,” an attempt to reassess Mendelssohn’s sphere of influence and to defend his music against the charge that it was superficial and derivative. If, in Niecks’s view, Mendelssohn did not compete well against the “gladiators of modern times,” he nevertheless excelled in capturing the fanciful in music.

      Trained as a violinist in Düsseldorf, Niecks arrived in Scodand in 1868; from 1891 he served as Reid Professor of Music at...

    • Felix Mendelssohn
      (pp. 390-394)

      Perhaps more than any other major musical figure from the second half of the nineteenth century, the pianist-conductor Hans von Bülow (1830–1894) found himself at the center of debate about German music and aesthetics. His early musical training included the study of piano with Friedrich Wieck and of counterpoint with Moritz Hauptmann in Leipzig, where he had opportunities to attend Mendelssohn’s concerts. But by 1851, von Bülow was a devoted disciple of Liszt in Weimar, and in 1857, he married Liszt’s daughter Cosima. In 1864 von Bülow was established as the court orchestra conductor in Munich, where he premièred...

  9. Index of Names and Compositions
    (pp. 395-401)
  10. List of Contributors
    (pp. 403-404)
  11. Back Matter
    (pp. 406-406)