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Um ewig einst zu leben

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Um 1815 zwei Männer, beide Maler - der eine in London, der andere in Dresden; der eine weltoffen, der andere düster melancholisch. Es sind J. M. William Turner und Caspar David Friedrich. Der Roman spielt mit der Verbindung beider.

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Mendelssohn in Weimar

Mendelssohn in Weimar

Christoph Werner

Translation by Christoph Werner (Weimar, Thuringia) and Michael Leonard (Petaluma, California)

Mendelssohn in DeutschFlagge USA

The impression the twelve-year-old Jakob Ludwig Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy (1809-1847) made on Goethe and his contemporaries in Weimar was so deep that it can hardly be put into words and yet has been delivered in many reports and letters.

Here follows part of a letter which Felix himself wrote his parents after he had met Goethe for the first time.

November 6th, 1821. Now everybody, really everybody please listen. Today is Tuesday. On Sunday the sun of Weimar, Goethe, arrived. In the morning we went to Church, where half of the 100th psalm by Handel was performed … After two hours came Professor Zelter: “Goethe has arrived. The venerable man has arrived.” Quickly we hurried down the stairs in Goethe's house. He is very friendly, but all the pictures of him don't seem to me to have a resemblance … After dinner Ulrike, Frau von Goethe's sister, asked me for a kiss. I did the same. Every morning the author of “Faust“ and “Werther“ gives me a kiss, and every afternoon I get two kisses from father and friend Goethe. Imagine that! In the afternoon I played for more than two hours for Goethe, partly fugues by Bach, and partly I improvised. At night whist was played, and Professor Zelter, who at the beginning took part, said: “Whist means shut up (Halt's Maul)! Strong language! We all had supper together, even Goethe, who normally never eats supper. Now my beloved, coughing Fanny: Yesterday I took your lieder to Frau von Goethe, who has a pretty voice. She will sing them to the venerable man. I have already told him that they were composed by you and asked him if he was inclined to hear them. He said: Yes, yes, I would like to. Frau von Goethe likes them very much. A good omen. Today or tomorrow he shall hear them …

(quoted from Biedermann, p. 329 et seqq.)

In German accounts of the life and work of the composer, pianist, musical conductor and teacher the impact that Mendelssohn had on Great Britain and the influence that Great Britain exercised on his music are often not given proper attention.

Mendelssohn stayed in England and Scotland at least ten times for shorter or longer periods. In the summer of 1829 he was in Scotland for the first time and met Sir Walter Scott in Abbotsford.

In a letter written from the Hebrides he described the manner in which the waves break on the Scottish coast. He noted down, in the form of a musical symbol, the opening bars of the Hebrides Overture (1830-32), also known as Fingal's Cave. Fingal's Cave is also the title of a famous painting by William Turner, and the architect Karl Friedrich Schinkel described the cave in the journal of his trip to England and Scotland.

Mendelssohn became famous in England and was much honoured. Queen Victoria esteemed him over all other composers. Mendelssohn wrote, not without irony, about his visit to the Queen and her husband in Buckingham Palace in 1843 which seems to indicate that he was well aware of the pomp and shallowness of the British monarchy, despite the affection of the royal couple for him.

Mendelssohn's influence on the English music of his time can no doubt be compared – mutatis mutandis – with the influence of Handel in Great Britain.



Recommended reading:

Biedermann, Goethes Gespräche, Dritter Band, Erster Teil 1817-1825 (1971) Zürich und Stuttgart: Artemis Verlag

Brekle, Ursula, Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy, in Leipzig-Lese: http://www.leipzig-lese.de/index.php?article_id=92

Encyclopedia Britannica 2005 Deluxe Edition CD-ROM

Werner, Christoph. 2004. Schloss am Strom. Die Geschichte vom Leben und Sterben des Baumeisters Karl Friedrich Schinkel. Weimar: Bertuch Verlag GmbH

Wolzogen, Alfred von. 1981. (1862). Aus Schinkels Nachlass. Band I-III. Reisetagebücher, Briefe, Aphorismen. Mitgeteilt von Alfred von Wolzogen. Nachdruck der Ausgabe Berlin 1862. Enthält die Bände I-III. Mittenwald: Mäander Kunstverlag. Nachdruck anläßlich der 200. Wiederkehr des Geburtstages von Carl Friedrich Schinkel bei einer Auflage von 800 numerierten Exemplaren

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