The summer hasn’t begun yet, and already I feel nostalgic like I would at the end of it. But that is entirely Felix Mendelssohn’s fault. So many of his pieces evoke in my mind the end of summer – is that the Romantic disease? Probably. His violin concerto in E minor is a case in point, however today Felix’ chamber music is on my mind: the String Quartet No. 1 in E flat major, Op. 12. It is a very early piece, written in 1829, when Mendelssohn was 20 years old. It has to do with a girl that he hallen fallen in love with, a passion alas that wasn’t reciprocated.
The first time I came across the name of Ignaz Moscheles was in the context of the “Sonntagsmusiken”, organized by Fanny Mendelssohn at the Mendelssohns’ mansion in Berlin. Moscheles, one of the greatest piano virtuosos of his time and a first-rate music teacher, was a regular guest at the Mendelssohns’ and both Fanny and Felix visited him while he stayed on London. His friendship with Fanny’s brother Felix led to his appointment as principal professor of piano at the newly founded Leipzig Conservatory in 1846. He had taught the 15 year old Felix in the 20s in Berlin, Edvard Grieg was one of his students many years later in Leipzig.
A few weeks ago I finished reading a monumental double biography of Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin – well written and extremely interesting, as I elaborate in a review on my other blog, but depressing at times. Add the grey and wet weather we experienced in January – not exactly what makes me feel hopeful and optimistic. Luckily there is music to help me and you overcome such moments, music like that joyful Quartet in E flat major that Felix Mendelssohn wrote in 1823.
When I come to think of it, the images I associate with this music go back exactly 29 years. It was in 1988, in Leszno, Poland, and the song was written by Felix Mendelssohn in E major. No. 1 of op. 19b. On a hot summer afternoon I went for a walk, a walk through an idyllic countryside. The houses were old, but tidy. Leszno was called Lissa when it was still part of the German Reich. Perhaps that explains why the courtyards were so neat, the bushes trimmed. I remember a particular garden, lush with green plants, bathed by the sun, flowers everywhere, a bench in front of the house. That garden – Mendelssohn’s “Song without words” made these memories resurface.