Entertainment & Arts

Mendelssohn lodging receives blue plaque

Mendelssohn blue plaque unveiling
A blue plaque has been placed where Mendelssohn lodged in London in the 19th Century

German composer Felix Mendelssohn has been commemorated with an English Heritage blue plaque in London.

It has been placed at the Grade II listed 4 Hobart Place, where the pianist stayed in on numerous visits to London at the height of his fame.

The popular Romantic era musician was a favourite of Queen Victoria.

At the unveiling, "honoured" violinist and conductor Dmitry Sitkovetsky described Mendelssohn as one of his "favourite composers".

Sitkovetsky said he is "somebody that I've not only always played, but adored as a person".

London berth

The musician stayed at the location for approximately four months.

Suzy Klein from BBC Radio 3 programme In Tune, who was at the ceremony, said: "Then it was the home of the Hanoverian Embassy Secretary Carl Klingerman.

"Mendelssohn went on all sorts of jaunts from here. He had dinner with [engineer] Isambard Kingdom Brunel, who he apparently didn't get on with, [author] Charles Dickens, who he did get on with and he had an audience with Queen Victoria and then rushed back here to tell everyone delightedly about it."

Felix Mendelssohn

Mendelssohn's most-performed works include his Overture and incidental music for A Midsummer Night's Dream, the Italian Symphony, his Violin Concerto and his String Octet.

The UK has long been a nurturing place for classical musicians, hosting Mozart, Handel and Haydn.

Sir Nicholas Kenyon, managing director of the Barbican Centre, former BBC Proms director and member of the blue plaque panel, was also at the ceremony.

He said a key factor in Mendelssohn being widely accepted in the UK was largely down to its enduring choral tradition.

"It was a major factor in the 19th Century, which enabled him to have his works well done here, and as we know they then became accepted into the warp and weft of the English choral tradition in a very major way and Elijah (his oratorio) absolutely stood at the centre of that."

Century-long delay

Mendelssohn's blue plaque has been a long time coming, having been approved more than a century ago.

As for why it took so long to come to fruition, Sir Nicholas said: "The people at that time who owned the building didn't want a blue plaque on it and the file simply mouldered [sic] away until Howard Spencer of the blue plaque team had a new discussion about it and revived the idea."

English Heritage, due to celebrate 150 years of commemorative plaques in London in 2016, recently had its funding cut by 34%.

The organisation has had to look for huge savings, but Sir Nicholas said it is still very much behind the blue plaque system.

He said: "What we are having to say at the moment is because there is a huge backlog of nominations for the scheme, there won't be any new nominations for the next couple of years, but plaques will continue to go up."

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