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.
One of my favourite movies is the French production ” Un husard sur le toit” starring Juliette Binoche, my favourite actress. At the center of the plot is a young French lady and an Italian revolutionary fleeing the outbreak of the plague in southern France. A love story amidst human misery and suffering – very romantic, very much my taste. It also compels me to acknowledge how fortunate I am not to have to fear any deadly epidemics in Europe with the exception of HIV. Only a century ago, in 1918, Europe was fighting the outbreak of a particularly tough type of flu and between 1826 and 1837 the great cholera pandemic the killed almost killed the composer Felix Mendelssohn.
Man or woman? Does it matter? At the time it did. In 1843 Fanny Mendelssohn (1805–1847), Felix Mendelssohn’s sister, wrote an outstanding piano work, the Piano Sonata in G minor (H-U 395). But her family had made clear that her compositions should not be published and that she should not perform in public. She was meant to be a distinguished lady, a good housekeeper and a caring mother. This didn’t keep Fanny Mendelssohn from composing, nor from publishing her works for that matter and she could count on the support of another man, her husband. As much as Fanny loved Felix, she had a brain of her own and knew how to use it.
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.