Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 2.djvu/270

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visit (the third) to Goethe, at Weimar. Felix played the B minor Quartet, and delighted the poet by dedicating it to [1]him. It is a marvellous work for a boy of sixteen, and an enormous advance on either of its two predecessors; but probably no one not even the composer—suspected that the Scherzo (in F&#266d; minor, 3-8) was to be the first of a 'family of scherzi which, if he had produced nothing else, would stamp him as an inventor in the most emphatic signification of the word.' It must be admitted that Goethe made him a very poor return for his charming music. Anything more stiff and ungraceful than the verses which he wrote for him, and which are given in 'Goethe and Mendelssohn,' it would be difficult to find, unless it be another stanza, also addressed to Felix, and printed in vol. vi. p. 144 of the poet's works:—

Wenn das Talent verständig waltet,
Wirksame Tugend nie veraltet.
Wer Menschen gröndlich konnt' erfreun,
Der darf stch vor der Zeit nicht scheun;
Und möchtet ihr ihm Beifall geben,
So gebt ihn uns, die wir ihn frisch beleben.
If Talent reigns with Wisdom great,
Virtue is never out of date.
He who can give us pleasure true
Need never fear what Time can do:
And will you Talent your approval give?
Then give it us who make her newly live.

They were at home before the end of May. The fiery Capriccio for P.F. in F♯ minor (afterwards published as op. 5), so full of the spirit of Bach, is dated July 23 of this year, and the score of Camacho's wedding—an opera in two acts by Klingemann, founded on an episode in Don Quixote—Aug. 10. The Capriccio was a great favourite with him, and he called it un absurdité. [App. p.716 "for un read une."]

The Mendelssohn-Bartholdy family was beginning to outgrow the accommodation afforded by the grandmother's roof, and at the end of this summer they removed from No. 7 Neue Promenade to a large house and grounds which had formerly belonged to the noble family of Reck, namely to No. 3 of the Leipziger Strasse, the address so familiar to all readers of Felix's subsequent letters. If we were writing the life of an ancient prophet or poet, we should take the name of the 'Leipzig Road' as a prediction of his ultimate establishment in that town; but no token of such an event was visible at the time. The new residence lay in a part of Berlin which was then very remote, close to the Potsdam Gate, on the edge of the old Thiergarten, or deer-park, of Frederick the Great, so far from all the accustomed haunts of their friends, that at first the laments were loud. The house was of a dignified, old-fashioned kind, with spacious and lofty rooms; behind it a large court with offices, and behind that again a beautiful stretch of ground, half park, half garden, with noble trees, lilacs, and other flowering shrubs, turf, alleys, walks, banks, summer-houses, and seats—the whole running far back, covering about ten acres, and being virtually in the country. Its advantages for music were great. The house itself contained a room precisely fitted for large music parties or private theatricals; and at the back of the court, and dividing it from the garden, there was a separate building called the 'Gartenhaus,' the middle of which formed a hall capable of containing several hundred persons, with glass doors opening right on to the lawns and alleys—in short a perfect place for the Sunday music. Though not without its drawbacks in winter reminding one in Mr. Hensel's almost pathetic [2]description of the normal condition of too many an English house it was an ideal summer home, and '3, Leipziger Strasse' is in Mendelssohn's mouth a personality, to which he always turned with longing, and which he loved as much as he hated the rest of Berlin. It was identified with the Mendelssohn-Bartholdys till his death, after which it was sold to the state; and the Herrenhaus, or House of Lords of the German government, now stands on the site of the former court and Gartenhaus.[3]

Devrient [4]takes the completion of Camacho and the leaving the grandmother's house as the last acts of Felix's musical minority; and he is hardly wrong, for the next composition was a wonderful leap into maturity. It was no other than the Octet for strings (afterwards published as op. 20), which was finished towards the end of October 1825, and was dedicated as a birthday gift to Edward Ritz. It is the first of his works which can be said to have fully maintained its ground on its own [5]merits, and is a truly astonishing composition for a boy half-way through his 17th year. There is a radiance, a freedom, and an individuality in the style which are far ahead of the 13th Symphony, or any other of the previous instrumental works, and it is steeped throughout in that inexpressible captivating charm which is so remarkable in all Mendelssohn's best compositions. The Scherzo especially (G minor, 2-4) is a movement of extraordinary lightness and grace, and the Finale, besides being a masterly piece of counterpoint (it is a fugue), contains in the introduction of the subject of the scherzo a very early instance of the 'transformation of themes,' of which we have lately heard so much. Felix had confided to [6]Fanny that his motto for the scherzo was the following stanza in the Intermezzo of Faust:—

Wolkenzug und Nebelflor
Erhellen stch von oben;
Luft im Laub, und Wind im Rohr,
—Und alles ist zerstoben.
Floating cloud and trailing mist
Bright'ning o'er us hover;
Airs stir the brake, the rushes shake—
And all their pomp is over.

and never was a motto more perfectly carried out in execution. The whole of the last part, so light and airy—and the end, in particular, where the fiddles run softly up to the high G, accompanied only with staccato chords—is a perfect illustration of 'alles ist zerstoben.' He afterwards instrumented it for the full orchestra, but it is hard to say if it is improved by the process.—The

  1. For the details see G. & M. 50.
  2. F.M. i. 142.
  3. The large yew-tree which stood close outside the Gartenhaus and was endangered by the extension of the new building, was preserved by the special order of the Emperor, and is still (1879) vigorous, and as gloomy as a yew should be.
  4. Dev. 20.
  5. It was played 14 times at the Monday Popular Concerts between 1859 and 1878.
  6. F.M. i. 154.