Is it a personal tragedy when the pupil outdoes the teacher? Or does it fill him with pride? Carl Reinecke (1824-1910) is an unknown unknown. His students however are well-known or at least known unknown composers i.e. unknown by the general public, but a reference for experts like the readers of this blog: Max Bruch, Leos Janacek, Edvard Grieg and Julius Röntgen. I think it is safe to say that Reinecke’s four students outdid their teacher in terms of celebrity. But they rival him in terms of excellence in composition remains to be seen.
Four voices. Nature as the inspiring element. Silence and peace as one of the central themes. Purity. Beauty. Harmony. “Unfortunately I have nothing for you except my part-songs and I would appreciate if you could play them for Cécile, always a well-meaning audience for me […] I associate a very pleasant time with these songs and I prefer them over my other songs”, writes the composer on February 1, 1847. Fanny Mendelssohn is the author, and in 1847 she sent a copy of the Gartenlieder, Op. 3 (Garden Songs) to her brother Felix. Cécile of course was Felix’ wife and the two women kept in touch regularly through letters. Fanny stayed in Berlin, Felix and Cécile in Leipzig where Felix led the Gewandhausorchester.
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.