Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 2.djvu/290

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278
MENDELSSOHN.
 

church. He had intended to give a [1]Charity Concert during his stay in London, after the Festival, but it was too late in the season for this, and he travelled from London with [2]Chorley and Moscheles in the mail coach to Dover; then an 8-hours' passage to Ostend, and by Liége and Aix-la-Chapelle to Leipzig. It was Moscheles's first introduction to Cécile.

The concerts had already begun, on Oct. 4, but he took his place at the second. The Lobgesang played a great part in the musical life of Leipzig this winter. It was performed at the special command of the King of Saxony at an extra [3]concert in October. Then Mendelssohn set to work to make the alterations and additions which the previous performances had suggested to him, including the scene of the watchman, preparatory to a benefit performance on Dec. 3; and lastly it was performed at the 9th Gewandhaus Concert, on Dec. 17, when both it and the Kreutzer Sonata were commanded by the King and the Crown Prince of Saxony. The alterations were so serious and so universal as to compel the sacrifice of the whole of the plates engraved for the performance at Birmingham. Now, however, they were final, and the work was published by Breitkopf & Härtel early in the following year. Before leaving this we may say that the scene of the watchman was suggested to him during a sleepless night, in which the words 'Will the night soon pass?' incessantly recurred to his mind. Next morning he told Mr. Schleinitz that he had got a new idea for the Lobgesang.

With 1841 we arrive at a period of Mendelssohn's life when, for the first time, a disturbing antagonistic element beyond his own control was introduced into it, depriving him of that freedom of action on which he laid such great stress, reducing him to do much that he was disinclined to, and to leave undone much that he loved, and producing by degrees a decidedly unhappy effect on his life and peace. From 1841 began the worries and troubles which, when added to the prodigious amount of his legitimate work, gradually robbed him of the serene happiness and satisfaction which he had for long enjoyed, and in the end, there can be little doubt, contributed to his premature death. Frederick William IV, to whom, as Crown Prince, Mendelssohn dedicated his three Concert-overtures in 1834, had succeeded to the throne of Prussia on June 7, 1840; and being a man of much taste and cultivation, one of his first desires was to found an Academy of Arts in his capital, to be divided into the four classes of Painting, Sculpture, Architecture, and Music, each class to have its Director, who should in turn be Superintendent of the whole Academy. In music it was proposed to connect the class with the existing establishments for musical education, and with others to be formed in the future, all under the control of the Director, who was also to carry out a certain number of concerts every year, at which large vocal and instrumental works were to be performed by the Royal orchestra and the Opera company. Such was the scheme which was communicated to Mendelssohn by Herr von Massow, on Dec. 11, 1840, with an offer of the post of Director of the musical class, at a salary of 3000 thalers (£450). Though much gratified by the offer, Mendelssohn declined to accept it without detailed information as to the duties involved. That information, however, could only be afforded by the Government Departments of Science, Instruction, and Medicine, within whose regulation the Academy lay, and on account of the necessary changes and adjustments would obviously require much consideration. Many letters on the subject passed between Mendelssohn, his brother Paul, Herr von Massow, Heir Eichhorn the Minister, Klingemann, the President Verkenius, from which it is not difficult to see that his hesitation arose from his distrust of Berlin and of the official world which predominated there, and with whom he would in his directorship be thrown into contact at every turn. He contrasts, somewhat captiously perhaps, his freedom at Leipzig with the trammels at Berlin; the devoted, excellent, vigorous orchestra of the one with the careless perfunctory execution of the other. His radical, roturier spirit revolted against the officialism and etiquette of a great and formal Court, and he denounces in distinct terms 'the mongrel doings of the capital—vast projects and poor performances; the keen criticism and the slovenly playing; the liberal ideas and the shoals of subservient courtiers; the Museum and Academy, and the sand.'

To leave a place where his sphere of action was so definite, and the results so unmistakeably good, as they were at Leipzig, for one in which the programme was vague and the results at best problematical, was to him more than difficult. His fixed belief was that Leipzig was one of the most influential and Berlin one of the least influential places in Germany in the matter of music; and this being his conviction (rightly or wrongly) we cannot wonder at his hesitation to forsake the one for the other. However, the commands of a king are not easily set aside, and the result was that by the end of May 1841 he was living in Berlin, in the old home of his family—to his great delight.[4]

His life at Leipzig during the winter of 1840–41 had been unusually laborious. The interest of the Concerts was fully maintained; four very interesting programmes, occupied entirely by Bach, Handel, Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven, and involving a world of consideration and minute trouble, were given. He himself played frequently; several very important new works by contemporaries—including symphonies by Spohr, Maurer, and Kalliwoda, and the Choral Symphony, then nearly as good as new—were produced, after extra [5]careful rehearsals; and the season wound up with Bach's Passion. In a letter to [6]Chorley of March 15 he calls his spring

  1. See his Letter of July 21 in C. i. 318.
  2. Mos. ii. 74.
  3. Letter, Oct. 27, 1840.
  4. F.M. iii. 6.
  5. It was at this performance of the Choral Symphony that Schumann for the first time heard the D in the Bass Trombone which gives so much life to the beginning of the Trio. See his words in N.M.Z. 1841, i. 89.
  6. C. i. 334.