Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 2.djvu/286

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274
MENDELSSOHN.
 

and Fugues for the Organ (op. 37). He was also in earnest correspondence with [1]Schubring as to a second oratorio, on St. Peter.

It must have been hard to tear himself away so soon from his lovely young wife—and indeed he grumbles about it [2]lustily—but he had been engaged to conduct St. Paul, and to play the organ and his new Pianoforte Concerto, at the Birmingham Festival. Accordingly, on Aug. 24, he left Düsseldorf for Rotterdam, crossed to Margate in the 'Attwood,' the same boat which had taken him over in 1829, and on the 27th is in London, on his fifth visit, at Klingemann's house, as cross as a man [3]can well be. But this did not prevent his setting to work with Klingemann at the plan of an oratorio on [4]Elijah, over which they had two mornings' consultation. Before leaving London for Birmingham, he played the organ at St. Paul's—on Sunday afternoon, Sept. 10—and at Christ Church, Newgate Street, on Tuesday morning, the 12th. It was on the former of these two occasions that the vergers, finding that the congregation would not leave the Cathedral, withdrew the organ-blower, and let the wind out of the organ during Bach's Prelude and Fugue in [5]A minor—'near the end of the [6]fugue, before the subject comes in on the Pedals.' At Christ Church he was evidently in a good vein. He played 'six extempore fantasias,' one on a subject given at themoment, and the Bach Fugue just mentioned. Samuel Wesley—our own ancient hero, though 71 years old—was present and played. It was literally his Nunc dimittis: he died in a month from that [7]date. Mendelssohn's organ-playing on these occasions was eagerly watched. He was the greatest of the few great German organ-players who had visited this country, and the English organists, some of them no mean proficients, learned more than one lesson from him. 'It was not,' wrote Dr. Gauntlett, 'that he played Bach for the first time here,—several of us had done that. But he taught us how to play the slow fugue, for Adams and others had played them too fast. His words were, Your organists think that Bach did not write a slow fugue for the organ. Also he brought out a number of pedal-fugues which were not known here. We had played a few, but he was the first to play [8]the D major, the G minor, the E major, the C minor, the short E minor,' etc. Even in those that were known he threw out points unsuspected before, as in the A minor Fugue, where he took the episode on the swell, returning to the Great Organ when the pedal re-enters, but transferring the E in the treble to the Great Organ a bar before the other parts, with very fine [9]effect. This shows that with all his strictness he knew how to break a rule. One thing which particularly struck our organists was the contrast between his massive effects and the lightness of his touch in rapid passages. The touch of the Christ Church organ was both deep and heavy, yet he threw off arpeggios as if he were at a piano. His command of the pedal clavier was also a subject of much [10]remark. But we must hasten on. On the evening of the Tuesday he attended a performance of his oratorio by the Sacred Harmonic Society at Exeter Hall. He had conducted three rehearsals, but could not conduct the performance itself, owing to the prohibition of the Birmingham committee. It was the first time he had heard St. Paul as a mere listener, and his private journal says that he found it 'very interesting.' His opinion of English amateurs may be gathered from his [11]letter to the Society, with which his journal fully agrees. 'I can hardly express the gratification I felt in hearing my work performed in so beautiful a manner,—indeed, I shall never wish to hear some parts of it better executed than they were on that night. The power of the choruses—this large body of good and musical voices—and the style in which they sang the whole of my music, gave me the highest and most heartfelt treat; while I thought on the immense improvement which such a number of real amateurs must necessarily produce in the country which may boast of it.' On the Wednesday he went to Birmingham, and remained there, rehearsing and arranging, till the Festival began, Tuesday, 19th. At the evening concert of that day he extemporised on the organ, taking the subjects of his fugue from 'Your harps and cymbals' (Solomon), and the first movement of Mozart's Symphony in D, both of which had been performed earlier in the day; he also conducted his Midsummer Night's Dream Overture. On Wednesday he conducted St. Paul, on Thursday evening played his new Concerto in D minor, and on Friday morning, the 22nd, Bach's Prelude and Fugue ('St. Anne's') in [12]E♭ on the organ. The applause throughout was prodigious, but it did not turn his head, or prevent indignant reflections on the treatment to which Neukomm had been subjected, reflections which do him honour. Moreover, the applause was not empty. Mori and Novello were keen competitors for his Concerto, and it became the prize of the former, at what we should now consider a very moderate figure, before its composer left Birmingham. He travelled up by coach, reaching London at midnight, and was intercepted at the coach-office by the committee of the Sacred Harmonic Society, who presented him with a large silver [13]snuffbox, adorned with an inscription. He then went straight through, arrived in Frankfort on the 27th, and was at Leipzig at 2 p.m. of the day of the first concert, Sunday, Oct. 1. His house was in Lurgenstein's Garden, off the Promenade, the first house on the left, on [14]the second floor. [App. p.716 "On Oct. 12, 1837, he writes to thank the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde of Vienna for diploma of membership. The letter is in their archives."]

  1. L. July 13. 1837.
  2. F.M. ii. 61.
  3. H. 99.
  4. His private journal. He mentioned it to Mr. John C. Horsley (now the R. A.) during this visit.
  5. For a very interesting account of these two performances by Dr. Gauntlett see The Musical World for Sept. 15, 1837.
  6. His private journal.
  7. Oct. 11, 1837.
  8. He had learned these since his Swiss journey. See Letter, Sept. 3. 1831.
  9. Mr. E. J. Hopkins's recollection.
  10. Mr. Lincoln's recollection.
  11. I have to thank Mr. Husk and the Committee of the S.H.S. for this and other valuable information.
  12. For these details see Musical World, Sept. 1837, pp. 24–40. He had resolved on the Prelude and Fugue two months before. See Letter, July 18.
  13. L. Oct. 4, 1837. The box is with Dr. Paul Mendelssohn-Bartholdy.
  14. H. 149.