Rhine Festival of 1836 at Düsseldorf. The Festival lasted from May 22 to May 24 inclusive, and the programmes included, besides the new oratorio, the two overtures to Leonore, both in C, 'No. 1' (then unknown) and 'No. 3'; one of Handel's Chandos anthems, the Davidde penitente of Mozart, and the Ninth Symphony. The oratorio was executed with the greatest enthusiasm, and produced a deep sensation. It was performed on the 22nd, not in the present large music hall, but in the long low room which lies outside of that and below it, and is known as the Rittersaal, a too confined space for the purpose. For the details of the performance, including an escapade of one of the false witnesses, in which the coolness and skill of Fanny alone prevented a break-down, we must refer to the contemporary accounts of Klingermann, Hiller, and Polko. To English readers the interest of the occasion is increased by the fact that Sterndale Bennett, then 20 years old, and fresh from the Royal Academy of Music, was present.
Schelble's illness also induced Mendelssohn to take the direction of the famous Cäcilien-Verein at Frankfort. Leipzig had no claims on him after the concerts were over, and he was thus able to spend six weeks at Frankfort practising the choir in Bach's 'Gottes Zeit,' Handel's 'Samson,' and other works, and improved and inspired them greatly. He resided in Schelble's house at the corner of the 'Schöne Aussicht,' with a view up and down the Main. Hiller was then living in Frankfort; Lindblad was there for a time; and Rossini remained for a few days on his passage through, in constant intercourse with Felix.
Mendelssohn's visit to Frankfort was however fraught with deeper results than these. It was indeed quite providential, since here he met his future wife, Cécile Charlotte Sophie Jeanrenaud, a young lady of great beauty, nearly ten years younger than himself, the second daughter of a clergyman of the French Reformed Church, who had died many years before, leaving his wife (a Souchay by family) and children amongst the aristocracy of the town. The house was close to the Fahrthor, on the quay of the Main. Madame Jeanrenaud was still young and good-looking, and it was a joke in the family that she herself was at first supposed to be the object of Mendelssohn's frequent visits. But though so reserved, he was not the less furiously in love, and those who were in the secret have told us how entirely absorbed he was by his passion, though without any sentimentality. He had already had many a passing attachment. Indeed, being at once so warm-hearted and so peculiarly attractive to women and also, it should be said, so much sought by them it is a strong tribute to his self-control that he was never before seriously or permanently involved. On no former occasion, however, is there a trace of any feeling that was not due entirely, or mainly, to some quality or accomplishment of the lady, and not to her actual personality. In the present case there could be no doubt either of the seriousness of his love or of the fact that it centred in Miss Jeanrenaud herself, and not in any of her tastes or pursuits. And yet, in order to test the reality of his feelings, he left Frankfort, at the very height of his passion, for a month's bathing at Scheveningen near the Hague. His friend F. W. Schadow, the painter, accompanied him, and the restless state of his mind may be gathered from his letters to Hiller. His love stood the test of absence triumphantly. Very shortly after his return, on Sept. 9, the engagement took place, at Kronberg, near Frankfort; three weeks of bliss followed, and on Oct. 2 he was in his seat in the Gewandhaus, at the first concert of the season. The day after, Oct. 3, in the distant town of Liverpool, 'St. Paul' was performed for the first tune in England, under the direction of Sir G. Smart. The season at Leipzig was a good one; Sterndale Bennett, who had come over at Mendelssohn's invitation, made his first public appearance in his own Concerto in C minor, and the series closed with the Choral Symphony.
His engagement soon became known far and wide, and it is characteristic of Germany, and of Mendelssohn's intimate relation to all concerned in the Gewandhaus, that at one of the concerts, the Finale to Fidelio, 'Wer ein holdes Weib errungen,' should have been put into the programme by the directors with special reference to him, and that he should have been forced into extemporising on that suggestive theme, amid the shouts and enthusiasm of his audience. The rehearsals for the concerts, the concerts themselves, his pupils, friends passing through, visits to his fiancée, an increasing correspondence, kept him more than busy. Bennett was living in Leipzig, and the two friends were much together. In addition to the subscription series and to the regular chamber concerts, there were performances of Israel in Egypt, with new organ part by him, on Nov. 7, and St. Paul, March 16, 1837. The compositions of this winter are few, and all of one kind, namely preludes and fugues for pianoforte. The wedding took place on March 28, 1837, at the Walloon French Reformed Church, Frankfort. For the wedding tour they went to Freiburg, and into the Palatinate, and by the 15th of May returned to Frankfort. A journal which they kept together during the honeymoon is full of sketches and droll things of all kinds. In July they were at Bingen, Horchheim, Coblenz, and Düsseldorf for some weeks. At Bingen, while swimming across to Asmannshausen, he had an attack of cramp which nearly cost him his life, and from which he was only saved by the boatman. The musical results of these few months were very important, and include the 42nd Psalm, the String Quartet in E minor, an Andante and Allegro for P.F. in E (still in MS.), the second P.F. Concerto, in D minor, and the 3 Preludes
- See The Musical World, June 17, 1838 (and Benedict's 'Sketch,' 27, 28); Hiller's 'Mendelssohn,' 61; and Polko, 43.
- H. 56, etc.
- A pencil-drawing of the Main and the Fahrthor, with the 'Schöne Aussicht' in the distance, taken from the Jeanrenauds' windows, has the following inscription:—'Vendu á Mendelssohn au prix de l'execution d'un nombre indeterminis de Fugues de J. S. Bach, et de la Cople d'un Rondo du même Maître. Laurens á Montpellier.'
- H. ch. iv; F.M. ii. 30; Dev. 196.
- H. 62–72.
- Letter to his mother, F.M. ii. 27; P. 63.
- Published as Op. 35. See the Catalogue at end of this article.
- Dev. 200.