Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 2.djvu/274

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for P.F. and Cello (op. 17), dated Jan. 30, 1829, and dedicated to his brother Paul, who was more than a fair Cello player. The 'Calm sea and Prosperous voyage' was finished, or finished as nearly as any score of Mendelssohn's can be said to have been finished before it was publicly performed, and had received those innumerable corrections and alterations and afterthoughts, which he always gave his works, and which in some instances caused the delay of their appearance for years—which in fact prevented the appearance of the Italian Symphony till his removal made any further revision impossible. We have already seen that the basis of the work was furnished by the visit to Dobberan. A MS. letter from that place to Fanny (July 27, 1824) gives her an account of the sea in the two conditions in which it is [1]depicted in the overture.

Felix's little choir had steadily continued their practice of the Passion, and the better they knew the mighty work the more urgent became their desire for a public performance by the Singakademie (300 to 400 voices) under Felix's own care. Apart from the difficulties of the music, with its double choruses and double orchestra, two main obstacles appeared to lie in the way—the opposition of Zelter as head of the Akademie, and the apathy of the public. Felix, for one, 'utterly [2]disbelieved' in the possibility of overcoming either, and with him were his parents and Marx, whose influence in the house was great. Against him were Devrient, Schubring, Bauer, and one or two other enthusiasts. At length Devrient and Felix determined to go and beard Zelter in his den. They encountered a few rough words, but their enthusiasm gained the day. Zelter yielded, and allowed Felix to conduct the [3]rehearsals of the Akademie. The principal solo singers of the Opera at once gave in their adhesion; the rehearsals began; Felix's tact, skill, and intimate knowledge of the music carried everything before them, the public flocked to the rehearsals; and on Wednesday, March 11, 1829, the first performance of the Passion took place since the death of Bach; every ticket was taken, and a thousand people turned away from the doors. Thus in Felix's own words (for once and once only alluding to his descent) 'it was an actor and a Jew who restored this great Christian work to the [4]people.' There was a second performance under Felix on Bach's birthday, March 21. It is probable that these successes did not add to Felix's popularity with the musicians of Berlin. Whether it was his age, his manner, his birth, the position held by his family, or what, certain it is that he was at this time in some way under a cloud. He had so far quarrelled with the Royal Orchestra that they refused to be conducted by him, and concerts at which his works were given were badly attended.[5]

Paganini made his first appearance in Berlin this month, gave four concerts, and [6]bewitched the Berliners as he did every one else. He very soon found his way to the Leipziger [7]Strasse. It would be interesting to know if he heard the Passion, and if, like Rossini, some years later, he professed himself a convert to Bach.

Whistling's Handbuch shows that by the end of this year Felix had published his 3 P.F. Quartets; the Sonata for P.F. and V.; the Caprice, op. 5; the Sonata for P.F. solo; the Wedding of Camacho; and the first two books of Songs. The dedications of these throw a light on some things. The quartets are inscribed respectively to Prince A. Radzivil (a friend of the family, who was present at the first performance of the 'Beiden Pädagogen' at the Neue Promenade), Zelter, and Goethe; the Violin Sonata to E. Ritz, Felix's favourite violin player; the 7 Characteristic P.F. pieces to Ludwig Berger, his P.F. teacher. The rest have no dedications.

The engagement of Fanny Mendelssohn to William Hensel the painter of Berlin took place on January 22, 1829, in the middle of the excitement about the Passion; and on April 10 Felix took leave for England. He was now 20. His age, the termination of his liability to military [8]service, the friction just alluded to between himself and the musical world of Berlin—all things invited him to travel, and [9]Zelter was not wrong in saying that it was good for him to leave home for a time. Hitherto also he had worked without fee or reward. He was now to prove that he could make his living by [10]music. But more than this was involved. His visit to England was the first section of a long [11]journey, planned by the care and sagacity of his father, and destined to occupy the next three years of his life. In this journey he was 'closely to examine the various countries, and to fix on one in which to live and work; to make his name and abilities known, so that where he settled he should not be received as a stranger; and lastly to employ his good fortune in life, and the liberality of his father, in preparing the ground for future [12]efforts.' The journey was thus to be to him what the artistic tour of other musicians had been to them; but with the important difference, resulting from his fortunate position in life, that the establishment of his musical reputation was not the exclusive object, but that his journey was to give him a knowledge of the world, and form his character and manners. The answer attributed to a young Scotch student who was afterwards to become a great English archbishop, when asked why he had come to Oxford—'to improve myself and to make friends'—exactly expresses the special object of Mendelssohn's tour, and is the mark which happily distinguished it from those of so many of his predecessors in the art. Music had not been adopted as a profession for Felix without much hesitation, and resistance on the part of some of his relations, and his father was wisely resolved that in so doing nothing should be sacrificed in the general culture

  1. Sometimes it lies as smooth as a mirror, without waves, breakers, or noise … sometimes it is so wild and furious that I dare not go in.'
  2. Dev. 46.
  3. They began about the end of January. F.M. i. 204.
  4. Dev. 57.
  5. See his letter to Ganz, in G. & M. 186.
  6. A.M.Z. 1829, 256.
  7. Marx, Errin. ii. 75.
  8. F.M. i. 186.
  9. Corr. with Goethe, letter 641.
  10. L. April, 16. 1835.
  11. 'My great journey' he calls it, G. & M. 100, 187.
  12. Letter, Feb. 21, 1832.