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A view from the bridge, or several

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Jessica Duchen Jessica Duchen | 10:46 UK time, Friday, 20 February 2009

jenny_lind_2.jpgThe Jenny Lind story is still making waves. As, of course, is Mendessohn himself. Here are two of the most interesting among the latest responses - for differing reasons.

Alex Ross, music critic of The New Yorker and author of the acclaimed book about 20th century music (and blog of the same name) The Rest is Noise, contributes this excellent article that combines fascinating historical perspective with some pertinent updates on Mendelssohn celebrations across the Pond: http://www.newyorker.com/arts/critics/musical/2009/02/23/090223crmu_music_ross?currentPage=all

He says, among other things: '...Last year, I heard the Brentano Quartet give a taut performance of the Quartet in F Minor, Mendelssohn's final major piece, and one whose gruff rhythms and grinding chromatic lines suggest a creative departure. The composer's beloved sister had just died, and, according to a tantalizing recent report in the British press, he may have been suffering from an infatuation with the Swedish soprano Jenny Lind. Mendelssohn seemed, in other words, on the verge of losing control. If he had lived to harness those darker emotions, particularly in the realm of opera, he might have become the rival that Wagner obviously feared.'

In the meantime, I'd sent the Independent an update on responses to our story, and an extraordinary reply has now appeared in the Independent Minds blog/forum from Cecilia Jorgensen, the guiding force of a Belgian team working under the name, 'Icons of Europe' (IoE). IoE has published a book called Chopin and the Swedish Nightingale about a supposed hidden love affair between Lind and the Polish piano genius, between Mendelssohn's death and Chopin's just two years afterwards. They refute the Felix & Jenny theory because they think that Otto Goldschmidt and friends/family can't be trusted: apparently they made a habit of swearing they had destroyed letters saying x, y or z - in order to conceal more deeply hidden truths.

Everything depends - as in the Chopin-Lind research - on double meanings, mistranslations, hidden motives etc. Fair enough - but what I can't work out is why anyone would have dragged Mendelssohn, of all people, into this, even if they were indeed trying to cover up for a Swedish prince? And why are they willing to take Mendelssohn's supposedly cool comments about Lind in his letters at face value when everyone else was supposedly hiding everything else? As I see it, of course Mendelssohn would have taken care not to betray stronger feelings for Lind in any letters - he had a very nice wife and five children. The plot thickens! Have a look in the Independent Minds forum and let us know what you think about it all...


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