Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 2.djvu/304

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292
MENDELSSOHN.
 

of the oppressive [1]air of the town. And yet, though more than one person is still alive who remembers this, not even those most near him appear to have realised the radical and alarming change for the worse which had taken place in his strength.

The Gewandhaus concerts began on Oct. 3, but he took no part in them, and left the conducting to his old colleague Rietz. A friend recollects his saying how happy he was—'as cheerful as a set of organ-passages'—that he hadn't to make out the programmes. He dreaded all public music, and complained much, though blaming himself as not deserving the happiness he had in his 'dear Cécile' and in the recovery of his boy Felix. He had been to Berlin for a week, very shortly after his return, and the sight of his sister's rooms, exactly as she left them, had [2]agitated him extremely, 'and almost neutralized the [3]effects of his Swiss retirement.' He had definitely given up the performance of Elijah at Berlin, but was bent on undertaking that at [4]Vienna on Nov. 14, where he was to hear his friend Jenny Lind in the music which he had written for her voice. On the morning of Oct. 9 he called on the Moscheleses and walked with them to the Rosenthal. He was at first much depressed, but it went off, and he became for the moment almost gay. After this he went to Madame Frege's house, and here his depression returned, and worse than before. His object was to consult her as to the selection and order of the songs in [5]op. 71, which he was about to publish—one of the minute matters in which he was so fastidious and difficult to satisfy. She sang them to him several times, they settled the order, and then he said he must hear them once more, and after that they would study Elijah; she left the room for lights, and on her return found him on the sofa shivering, his hands cold and stiff, his head in violent pain. He then went home, and the attack continued; leeches were applied, and by the 15th he had recovered so far as to listen with interest to the details of the reception of Hiller's new opera at Dresden, and actually to make plans for his Vienna journey. On the 25th he writes to his brother in the old affectionate vein. He is taking tonics, but Paul's face would do him more good than the bitterest medicine. He was not, however, destined to speak to him again. On the 28th he was so much better as to take a walk with his wife, but it was too much, and shortly afterwards he had a second attack, and on Nov. 3 another, which last deprived him of consciousness. He lingered through the next day, fortunately without pain, and expired at 9.24 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 4, 1847, in the presence of his wife, his brother, Schleinitz, David, and Moscheles. During the illness, the public feeling was intense. Bulletins were issued, and the house was besieged by enquirers. After his death it was as if every one in the town had received a blow and sustained a personal loss. 'It is lovely weather here,' writes a young English [6]student to the York Courant, 'but an awful stillness prevails; we feel as if the king were dead. Clusters of people are seen speaking together in the streets.' Those who remember what happened in London when Sir Robert Peel died can imagine how a similar loss would affect so small, simple, and concentrated a town as Leipzig. The streets were placarded at the corners with official announcements of his death, as if he had been a great officer of state.

On the Friday and Saturday the public were allowed to see the dead body. On Sunday the 7th it was taken to the Pauliner Church at Leipzig. A band preceded the hearse, playing the Song without Words in E minor (Book 5, no. 3), instrumented by Moscheles; and after this came a [7]student of the Conservatorium with a cushion, on which lay a silver crown formerly presented to Mendelssohn by his pupils, and his Order 'pour le merite.' The pall was borne by Moscheles, David, Hauptmann, and Gade; tha professors and pupils of the Conservatorium, the members of the Gewandhaus orchestra, the chief functionaries of the Corporation and the University, and several guilds and societies accompanied the coffin, and Paul Mendelssohn was chief mourner. In the church the chorale 'To thee, Lord,' and the chorus 'Happy and blest,' from St. Paul, were sung, a sermon or oration was delivered by Herr Howard, the pastor of the Reformed Congregation, and the service closed with the concluding chorus of Bach's Passion music. At 10 p.m. the coffin was conveyed to the Leipzig station and transported by rail to Berlin. On the road, during the night, it was met at Cöthen by the choir of the place, under Thile their director, and at Dessau, by Friedrich Schneider, who wiped away the recollection of early antagonisms by a farewell part-song, composed for the occasion, and sung by his choir at the station. It arrived at Berlin at 7 a.m., and after more funeral ceremonies was deposited in the enclosed burial-place of the family in the Alte Dreifaltigkeits Kirchhof, close outside the Halle-thor.

His tombstone is a cross. He rests between his boy Felix and his sister Fanny. His father and mother are a short distance behind.

The 5th Gewandhaus concert, which it was piously observed would naturally have ended at the very moment of his death, was postponed till the 11th, when, excepting the Eroica Symphony, which formed the second part of the programme, it was entirely made up of the compositions of the departed master. Among them were the Nachthed of Eichendorf (op. 71, no. 6), sung by Madame Frege.

  1. Lamp. 151.
  2. Mme. Frege; Mos. ii. 181.
  3. B. 67.
  4. The last letter stuck into the last (the 29th) of his green volumes is from Fischhoff of Vienna on this subject, dated Oct. 29. It must have been too late to have been read by him.
  5. Of the seven songs which he brought, the 'Altdeutsches Fr{{subst:u:}}hlingslied,' though put on paper on Oct. 7, was composed in the summer. The 'Nachthed' was composed and written for Schleinitz's birthday, Oct. 1, and is therefore virtually Mendelssohn's last composition. 'An odd birthday present,' said he to Mad. Frege, 'but I like it much, for I feel so dreary.'
  6. Mr. Camidge, son of Dr. Camidge of York.
  7. Mr. de Sentis.