Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 2.djvu/283

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was no other than [1]Felix himself. They reached Berlin in due course, and by Sept. 27, 1833, Felix was at his new post.

Düsseldorf was the beginning of a new period in his career—of settled life away from the influences of home, which had hitherto formed so important an element in his existence. At Berlin both success and non-success were largely biassed by personal considerations; here he was to start afresh, and to be entirely dependent on himself. He began his new career with vigour. He first attacked the church music, and as 'not one tolerable mass' was to be found, scoured the country as far as Elberfeld, Cologne, and Bonn, and returned with a carriage-load of Palestrina, Lasso, and Lotti. Israel in Egypt, the Messiah, Alexander's Feast, and Egmont are among the music which we hear of at the concerts. At the theatre, after a temporary disturbance, owing to a rise in prices, and a little over-eagerness, he was well received and successful; and at first all was couleur de rose—'a more agreeable position I cannot wish [2]for.' But he soon found that the theatre did not suit him; he had too little sympathy with theatrical life, and the responsibility was too irksome. He therefore, after a few months' trial, [3]in March 1834, relinquished his salary as far as the theatre was concerned, and held himself free, as a sort of 'Honorary [4]Intendant.' His influence however made itself felt. Don Juan, Figaro, Cherubini's Deux Journées, were amongst the operas given in the first four months; and in the church we hear of masses by Beethoven and Cherubini, motets of Palestrina's, and cantatas of Bach's, the Dettingen Te Deum, 'and on the whole as much good music as could be expected during my first [5]winter.' He lived on the ground floor of Schadow's [6]house, and was very much in the artistic circle, and always ready to make an excursion, to have a swim, to eat, to ride (for he kept [7]a horse), to dance, or to sleep; was working hard at water-colour drawing, under [8]Schirmer's tuition, and was the life and soul of every company he entered. In May was the Lower Rhine Festival at Aix-la-Chapelle, conducted by Ferdinand Ries; there he met Hiller, and also [9]Chopin, whose acquaintance he had already made [10]in Paris, and who returned with him to Düsseldorf. During the spring of 1834 he was made a member of the Berlin Academy of the [11]Fine Arts.

Meantime, through all these labours and distractions, of pleasure or business alike, he was composing busily and well. The overture to Melusina was finished Nov. 14, 1833, and tried; the E♭ Rondo for P.F. and orchestra (op. 29) on Jan. 29, 1834; 'Infelice,' for soprano and orchestra, for the Philharmonic [12]Society (in its first shape), is dated April 3, 34; the fine Capriccio in A minor (op. 33, no. i), April 9, 34. He had also rewritten and greatly improved the Meeresstille [13]Overture for its publication by Breitkopfs with the M. N. D. and Hebrides. A symphony which he mentions as on the road appears to have been superseded by a still more important work. In one of his letters from Paris (Dec. 19, 1831), complaining of the low morale of the opera librettos, he says that if that style is indispensable he 'will forsake opera and write oratorios.' The words had hardly left his pen when he was invited by the Cäcilien-Verein of Frankfort to compose an oratorio on [14]St. Paul. The general plan of the work, and such details as the exclusive use of the Bible and Choral-book, and the introduction of chorales, are stated by him at the very outset. On his return to Berlin he and Marx made a compact by which each was to write an oratorio-book for the other; Mendelssohn was to write 'Moses' for Marx, and Marx 'St. Paul' for [15]Mendelssohn. Mendelssohn executed his task at once, and the full libretto, entitled 'Moses, an Oratorio, composed by A. B. M.,' and signed 'F. M. B., 21 Aug. 1832,' is now in the possession of the [16]family. Marx, on the other hand, not only rejected Mendelssohn's book for 'Moses,' but threw up that of 'St. Paul' on the ground that chorales were an anachronism. In fact, this singular man's function in life seems to have been to differ with everybody. For the text of St. Paul, Mendelssohn was indebted to his own selection and to the aid of his friends Fürst and [17]Schubring. Like Handel, he knew his Bible well; in his oratorios he followed it implicitly, and the three books of St. Paul, Elijah, and the Lobgesang are a proof (if any proof were needed after the Messiah and Israel in Egypt) that, in his own words, 'the Bible is always the best of [18]all.' He began upon the music in March 1834, not anticipating that it would occupy him [19]long; but it dragged on, and was not completed till the beginning of 1836.

Though only Honorary Intendant at the Düsseldorf theatre, he busied himself with the approaching winter season, and before leaving for his holiday corresponded much with Devrient as to the engagement of [20]singers. September 1834 he spent in [21]Berlin, and was back at Düsseldorf [22]for the first concert on Oct. 23, calling on his way at Cassel, and making the acquaintance of [23]Hauptmann, with whom he was destined

  1. F.M. i. 386.
  2. L. July 20, 1834.
  3. L. Mar. 28.
  4. L. Aug. 6.
  5. L. Mar. 28.
  6. H. 38.
  7. The acquisition of this horse gives a good idea of his dutiful attitude towards his father. (L. March 28, 1834.)
  8. Dev. 174.
  9. L. May 23; H. 36.
  10. Karasowski, chap. xiv.
  11. L. ii. 15, 34. On this occasion he sent to the following 'Memorandum of my biography and art-education.' 'I was born Feb. 3, 1809, at Hamburg; in my 8th year began to learn music, and was taught thorough-bass and composition by Professor Zelter, and the Pianoforte, first by my mother and then by Mr. Ludwig Berger. In the year 1829 I left Berlin, travelled through England and Scotland, South Germany, Italy, Switzerland, and France; visited England twice more in the spring of 1832 and 33, was there made Honorary Member of the Philharmonic Society, and since October 1833, have been Music-director of the Association for the Promotion of Music in Düsseldorf.' This is preserved in the archives of the Academy, and I am indebted for it to the kindness of Mr. Joachim.
  12. First sung at the Philharmonic by Mme. Caradori, May 18, 1834. [App. p.716 "The 'vocal piece' of his contract with the society. It was first sung at the Philharmonic Concert by Mme. Caradori, May 19, 1834, with violin obbligato by Henry Blagrove. The MS. is in the Philharmonic Library. (See below, addition to p. 281b.)"]
  13. L. Aug. 6, 1834.
  14. Letter to Devrient, D. 137, 8.
  15. Marx, ii. 139, etc.
  16. It shows how fully Mendelssohn realised the connexion of the Old and New Testaments that his concluding chorus, after the giving of the Law, is 'This is the love of God, that we keep His commandments'—from St. John.
  17. See Sch.; and L. ii. 6, 38, 39, etc.
  18. L. July 15, 1834.
  19. L. Sept. 6. 1833, etc.
  20. Dev. 177–183.
  21. Dev. 183, 184.
  22. N.M. Zeitung.
  23. Hauptmann's letters to Hauser, i. 139.