Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 2.djvu/294

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282
MENDELSSOHN.
 

him the room and the orchestra of the Gewandhaus, on the most favourable terms, and asking him to allow one of his works to be played at the approaching concert (Feb. 22) for the Benefit of the Orchestra. An account of the whole, with copious souvenirs of their Roman acquaintance (not wholly uncoloured), will be found in Berlioz's 'Voyage musical,' in the letter to [1]Heller. It is enough here to say that the two composer-conductors exchanged batons, and that if Berlioz did not convert Leipzig, it was not for want of an amiable reception by Mendelssohn and David. On March 9 an interesting extra concert was [2]given under Mendelssohn's direction, to commemorate the first subscription concert, in 1743. The first part of the programme contained compositions by former Cantors, or Directors of the Concerts—Doles, Bach, J. A. Hiller, and Schicht, and by David, Hauptmann, and Mendelssohn (114th Psalm). The second part consisted of the Choral Symphony.

Under the modest title of the Music School the prospectus of the Conservatorium was issued on Jan. 16, 1843, with the names of Mendelssohn, Hauptmann, David, Schumann, Pohlenz, and C. F. Becker as the teachers; the first trial was held on March 27, and on [3]April 3 it was opened in the buildings of the Gewandhaus. Thus one of Mendelssohn's most cherished wishes was at last accomplished. A letter on the subject to Moscheles, dated April 30, is worth notice as showing how practical his ideas were on business matters, and how sound his judgment. On Sunday, [4]April 23, he had the satisfaction of conducting the concert at the unveiling of the monument to Sebastian Bach, which he had originated, and for which he had worked so earnestly. The programme consisted entirely of Bach's music, in which Mendelssohn himself played a concerto. Then the monument was unveiled, and the proceedings ended with Bach's 8-part motet 'Singet dem Herrn ein neues Lied.' Such good services were appropriately acknowledged by the Town Council with the honorary freedom of the city (Ehrenbürgerrecht).[5]

About this time he made the acquaintance of Joseph Joachim, who came to Leipzig from Vienna as a boy of 12, attracted by the fame of the new music school, and there began a friendship which grew day by day, and only ended with Mendelssohn's death.

On May 1 his fourth child, Felix, was born. On account no doubt partly of his wife's health, partly also of his own—for it is mentioned that he was seriously unwell at the dedication of the Bach monument—but chiefly perhaps for the sake of the Conservatorium, he took no journey this year, and, excepting a visit to Dresden to conduct St. Paul, remained in Leipzig for the whole summer. How much his holiday was interfered with by the tedious, everlasting affair of Berlin—orders and counter-orders, and counter-counter-orders—may be seen from his [6]letters, though it is not necessary to do more than allude to them. By the [7]middle of July he had completed the Midsummer Night's Dream music, had written the choruses to Athalie, and made more than a start with the music to Œdipus, and some progress with a [8]new Symphony; had at the last moment, under a pressing order from Court, arranged the chorale 'Herr Gott, dich loben wir' (Te Deum) for the celebration of the 1000th anniversary of the empire, 'the longest chorale and the most tedious job he had ever had,' and had also, a still harder task, answered a long official letter on the matter of his post, which appeared to contradict all that had gone before, and cost him (in his own words) 'four thoroughly nasty, wasted, disagreeable days.'

He therefore went to Berlin early in August, and on the 6th conducted the music of the anniversary; returned to Leipzig in time to join his friend Madame Schumann in her husband's lovely Andante and Variations for 2 Pianofortes at Madame Viardot's concert on [9]Aug. 19, and on Aug. 25 was pursued thither by orders for a performance of Antigone, and the production of the Midsummer Night's Dream and Athalie in the latter half of September. At that time none of the scores of these works had received his final touches; Athalie indeed was not yet scored at all, nor was a note of the overture written. Then the performances are postponed, and then immediately resumed at the former dates; and in the end Antigone was given on [10]Sept. 19, in the Neue Palais at Potsdam, and the Midsummer Night's Dream at the same place—after 11 [11]rehearsals—on [12]Oct. 14, and on the 18th, 19th, 20th, and 21st at the King's Theatre in Berlin. The music met with enthusiastic applause each time; but the play was for long a subject of wonder to the Berliners. Some disputed whether Tieck or Shakspeare were the author; others believed that Shakspeare had translated it from German into English. Some, in that refined atmosphere, were shocked by the scenes with the clowns, and annoyed that the King should have patronised so low a piece; and a very distinguished personage [13]expressed to Mendelssohn himself his regret that such lovely music should have been wasted on so poor a play—a little scene which he was very [14]fond of mimicking.—Antigone procured him the honour of membership of the Philologen-versammlung of [15]Cassel.

Mendelssohn's position at Berlin had now apparently become so permanent that it was necessary to make proper provision for filling his place at the Leipzig concerts, and accordingly Ferdinand Hiller was [16]engaged to conduct them during

  1. And in Berlioz's M{{subst:e'}}moires.
  2. N.M.Z. 1843. i. 95.
  3. N.M.Z. 1843, i. 102. Hauptmann, letter to Spohr, Feb. 6, 43, says, 'Our music-school is to begin in April, but not on the 1st, Mendelssohn thought that unlucky.'
  4. See Lampadius, 127; N.M.Z. 1843, i. 144.
  5. A.M.Z. 1843, 334.
  6. L. July 21, 26, Aug. 26, Sept. 16, 1837.
  7. L. July 21.
  8. F.M. iii. 20—'marschirt langsam.'
  9. N.M.Z. 1843, ii. 68; Lampadius. Joachim made his first appearance at this concert.
  10. Dev. 245.
  11. H. 213. The band was small—only 6 first and 6 second fiddles; but 'the very pick of the orchestra' (Joachim).
  12. On the 14th Mendelssohn was called for, but did not appear; F.M. iii. 51.
  13. F.M. iii. 73. These court-people were only repeating what the Italian villagers had said to him in 1831. See Letter, July 4. 1831.
  14. Mr. Sartoris's recollection.
  15. A.M.Z. 1843, 804.
  16. H. 212; N.M.Z. 1843, ii. 135.