Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 2.djvu/277

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

ing, he put us all into peals of merriment. But he, somehow, afterwards brought beautiful music out of the poor old fiddle, and we sat listening to one strain after another till the darkness sent us home.

My cousin [1]John Edward Taylor was staying with us at that time. He had composed an imitation Welsh air, and he was, before breakfast, playing over this, all unconscious that Mr. Mendelssohn (whose bed-room was next the drawing-room) was hearing every note. That night, when we had music as usual, Mr. Mendelssohn sat down to play. After an elegant prelude, and with all possible advantage, John Edward heard his poor little air introduced as the subject of the evening. And having dwelt upon it, and adorned it in every graceful manner, Mendelssohn in his pretty, playful way, bowing to the composer, gave all the praise to him.

I suppose some of the charm of his speech might lie in the unusual choice of words which he as a German made in speaking English. He lisped a little. He used an action of nodding his head quickly till the long locks of hair would fall over his high forehead with the vehemence of his assent to anything he liked.

Sometimes he used to talk very seriously with my mother. Seeing that we brothers and sisters lived lovingly together and with our parents, he spoke about this to my mother, told her how he had known families where it was not so: and used the words 'You know not how happy you are.'

He was so far from any sort of pretension, or from making a favour of giving his music to us, that one evening when the family from a neighbouring house came to dinner, and we had dancing afterwards, he took his turn in playing quadrilles and waltzes with the others. He was the first person who taught us gallopades, and he first played us Weber's last waltz. He enjoyed dancing like any other young man of his age. He was then 20 years old. He had written his Midsummer Night's Dream [Overture] before that time. I well remember his playing it. He left Coed-du early in September 1829.

We saw Mr. Mendelssohn whenever he came to England, but the visits he made to us in London have not left so much impression upon me as that one at Coed-du did. I can however call to mind a party at my father's in Bedford Row where he was present. Sir George Smart was there also: when the latter was asked to play he said to my mother, 'No, no, don't call upon the old post-horse, when you have a high-mettled young racer at hand.' The end of it was a duet played by Sir George and Mr. Mendelssohn together. Our dear old master, Mr. Attwood, often met him at our house. Once he went with us to a ball at Mr. Attwood's at Norwood. Returning by daylight I remember how Mr. Mendelssohn admired the view of St. Paul's in the early dawn which we got from Blackfriars bridge. But the happiest visit to us was that one when he first brought his sweet young wife to see my mother. Madame Felix Mendelssohn was a bride then, and we all of us said he could not have found one more worthy of himself. And with the delightful remembrance of his happiness then, I will end these fragments.

His head was at this time full of music—the E♭ Violin [2]Quartet (op. 12); an organ piece for Fanny's [3]wedding; the Reformation Symphony, the Scotch Symphony, the Hebrides Overture, as well as vocal music, 'of which he will say nothing.' Other subjects however occupied even more of his letters than music. Such were a private plan for a journey to Italy in company with the parents and Rebecka, for which he enters into a little conspiracy with his sister; and a scheme for the celebration of his parents' silver wedding (Dec. 26, 1829) by the performance of three operettas (Liederspiel), his own 'Soldatenliebschaft,' a second to be written by Hensel and composed by Fanny, and the third an 'Idyll' by Klingemann and himself, which when once it entered his head rapidly took shape, and by the end of October appears to have been virtually [4]complete.

By Sept. 10 he was again in London, this time [5]at 35, Bury Street, St. James's; on the 14th he finished and signed the E♭ Quartet, and on the 17th was thrown from a gig and hurt his knee, which forced him to keep his bed for nearly two months, and thus to miss not only a tour through Holland and Belgium with his father, but Fanny's wedding. Confinement to bed however does not prevent his writing home with the greatest regularity. On Sept. 22 he ends his letter with the first phrase of the Hebrides Overture—'aber zum Wiedersehen,

{ \clef bass \key d \major \override Score.Rest #'style = #'classical \time 4/4 \override Score.TimeSignature #'stencil = ##f r4 fis d cis8 d | b,2 fis, | r4 fis d cis8 d }


On Oct. 23 he informs them that he is beginning again to compose—and so on. He was nursed by Klingemann, and well cared for by Sir Lewis and Lady Moller, by Attwood, and Hawes, the musicians, the Goschens, and others. His first drive was on Nov. 6, when he found London 'indescribably beautiful.' A week later he went to [6]Norwood to the Attwoods, then back to town for 'the fourteen happiest days he had ever known,' and on Nov. 29 was at Hotel Quillacq, Calais, on his road home. He reached Berlin to find the Hensels and the Devrients inhabiting rooms in the garden-house. His lameness still obliged him to walk with a stick; but this did not impede the mounting of his [7]piece for the silver wedding, which came off with the greatest success on Dec. 26, and displayed an amount of dramatic ability which excited the desire of his friends that he should again write for the [8]stage. The Liederspiel however was not enough to occupy him, and during this winter he composed a [9]Symphony for the tercentenary festival of the Augsburg Confession, which was in preparation for June 25, 1830. This work, in the key of D, is that which we shall often again refer to as the 'Reformation Symphony.' He also wrote the fine Fantasia in F♯ minor (op. 28), which he called his 'Scotch [10]Sonata'—a piece too little played. A Chair of Music was founded in the Berlin university this winter expressly with a view to its being filled by Mendelssohn. But on the offer being made he declined it, and at his instance Marx was appointed in his [11]stead. There can be no doubt that he was right. Nothing probably could have entirely kept down Mendelssohn's ardour for composition; but it is certain that to have exchanged the career of a composer for that of a university teacher would have added a serious burden to the many

  1. Afterwards Gresham Professor.
  2. F.M. 276, 279, 280. The autograph of the Quartet, in the possession of Mr. Hudorf, is dated 'London, Sept. 14, 1829.' Though published as No. 1. it is thus really his second string quartet. See above, p. 260a. [App. p.716 "The quartet was dedicated to 'B[etty] P[istor]'; but after her engagement to Rudorf, Mendelssohn requested David to alter the initials ('durch einen kleinen Federschwanz') to 'B. R.' (See Eckardt's 'David,' p. 35.) In the same letter he calls it Quartet aus S.'"]
  3. Fanny herself wrote the piece which was actually played at the wedding, Oct. 3, 1829 (F.M. 296). Felix's piece, however, was finished and written out (L. July 25, 1844).
  4. F.M. i. 302–304; Her. 86.
  5. F.M. i. 301.
  6. Op. 16. No. 2, is dated 'Norwood, Surrey, Nov. 18.' There is a MS. letter from the same address, Nov. 15. The house was on Biggin Hill.
  7. 'Heimkehr aus der Fremde' (the Return from abroad) was translated by Chorley as 'The Son and Stranger,' and produced at the Haymarket Theatre July 7, 1851.
  8. Dev. 94.
  9. For some curious details regarding this see Dev. 96. Schubring (374b) tells the same story of the Trumpet Overture.
  10. The MS. in Mr. Schleinitz's possession, is entitled 'Sonate écossaise,' and dated 'Berlin, Jan. 29, 1833'; but he played it at Goethe's. May 24, 1830 (L. i. 7).
  11. Dev. 98.