Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 2.djvu/302

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

and conduct the Court Concerts at Dresden; and he took a large part in the management of the Gewandhaus Concerts this season, though suffering much from his head, and being all the time under the care of his [1]doctor. How minutely too he did his duty at this time as chief of the Conservatorium is shown by a MS. memorandum, dated Jan. 10, 1847, containing a long list of students, with full notes of their faults, and of the recommendations to be made to their professors. His enjoyment of life is still very keen, and his birthday was celebrated with an immense amount of fun. His wife, and her sister, Mrs. Schunck—a special favourite of Mendelssohn's—gave a comic scene in the Frankfort dialect; and Joachim (as Paganini), Moscheles (as a cook), and Mrs. Moscheles, acted an impromptu charade on the word 'Gewandhaus.' Happily no presentiment disturbed them; and the master of the house was as uproarious as if he had fifty birthdays before him. On Good Friday (April 2) he conducted St. Paul at Leipzig, and shortly afterwards—for the tenth, and alas! the last time—was once more in England, where he had an [2]engagement with the Sacred Harmonic Society to conduct three performances of Elijah in its revised form. One of those kindnesses which endeared him so peculiarly to his friends belongs to this time. Madame Frege had a son dangerously ill, and was unable to hear the performance of St. Paul. 'Na nun,' said he, 'don't distress yourself; when he gets out of danger I'll come with Cécile and play to you all night.' And he went, began with Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata, and played on for three hours, ending with his own Variations sérieuses. A day or two afterwards, he left, travelled over with [3]Joachim, and reached the Klingemanns' house on Monday evening, April 12. The performances took place at Exeter Hall on the 16th, 23rd, 28th, with a fourth on the 30th. The Queen and Prince Consort were present on the 23rd, and it was on that occasion that the Prince wrote the note in his programme book, addressing Mendelssohn as a second Elijah, faithful to the worship of true Art though encompassed by the idolaters of Baal, which has often been printed.[4] In the interval Mendelssohn paid a visit to Manchester for a performance of [5]Elijah on the 20th, and another to Birmingham, where he rehearsed and conducted the oratorio at the Town Hall on the 27th; and also conducted his Midsummer Night's Dream music and Scotch Symphony at the Philharmonic on the 26th, and played Beethoven's G major Concerto with even more than his usual brilliancy and delicacy. He probably never played that beautiful concerto—'my old cheval de bataille,' as he called it years before—more splendidly than he did on this occasion. To a [6]friend who told him so after the performance he replied, 'I was desirous to play well, for there were two ladies present whom I particularly wished to please, and they were the Queen and Jenny Lind.' A little trait remembered by more than one who heard the performance, is that during the cadence to the first movement—a long and elaborate one, and, as before (see p. 285a), entirely extempore, Mr. Costa, the conductor, raised his baton, thinking that it was coming to an end, on which Mendelssohn looked up, and held up one of his hands, as much as to say 'Not yet.'

On May 1 he lunched at the Prussian embassy and played, and also played for more than two hours at Buckingham Palace in the presence of the Queen and Prince Albert only. On the 4th, at the Beethoven Quartet Society, he played Beethoven's 32 Variations, without book, his own C minor Trio, and a Song without Words; and the same evening was at the opera at Jenny Lind's début. On the evening of the 5th he played a prelude and fugue on the name of Bach on the organ at the Antient Concert. The morning of the 6th he spent at Lord Ellesmere's picture gallery, and in the afternoon played to his friends the Bunsens and a distinguished company at the Prussian embassy. He left the [7]room in great emotion, and without the power of saying farewell. The same day he wrote a Song without words in the album of Lady Caroline Cavendish, and another in that of the Hon. Miss Cavendish, since published as Op. 102, No. 2, and Op. 85, No. 5, respectively. On the 8th he took leave of the Queen and Prince Consort at Buckingham Palace, and left London the same evening, much exhausted, with the Klingemanns. He had indeed, to use his own [8]words, 'staid too long there already.' It was observed at this time by one [9]who evidently knew him well, that though in the evening and when excited by playing, he looked as he had done on former visits, yet that by daylight his face showed sad traces of wear and a look of premature old age. He crossed on the 9th, Sunday, to Calais, drove to Ostend, and on the 11th was at [10]Cologne. At Herbesthal, through the extra zeal of a police official, who mistook him for a Dr. Mendelssohn of whom the police were in search, he was stopped on his road, seriously annoyed, and compelled to write a long statement which must have cost him as much time and labour as to compose an overture. He had been only a day or two in Frankfort when he received the news of the sudden death of his sister Fanny at Berlin on the 14th. It was broken to him too abruptly, and acting on his enfeebled frame completely overcame him. With a shriek he fell to the ground, and remained insensible for some time.

It was the third blow of the kind that he had received, a blow perhaps harder to bear than either of the others, inasmuch as Fanny was his sister, more of his own age, and he himself was older, more worn, and less able in the then weak state of his nerves to sustain the shock. In his

  1. Lampadius.
  2. The engagement for one performance had been tendered as early as Sept 14; see Mendelssohn's reply of Oct. 7 to the letter of Mr. Brewer, the secretary to the society, of that date, in P. 227. The other two were proposed Jan. 26, and arranged for between that date and March 10, 1847; see the letter of that date to Bartholomew, ibid. 229. The fourth was an afterthought.
  3. Mus. World. April 17.
  4. Letter. Aug. 26, 1846. Martin's Life of Prince Consort, i. 489.
  5. Letter to Moore, Manchester. April 21; P. 244.
  6. The late Mr. Bartholomew.
  7. Life of Bunsen, ii. 129, 130.
  8. B. 56.
  9. Fraser's Mag. Dec. 1847.
  10. Mrs. Klingemann.