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Donald Macleod continues his exploration of Mendelssohn's last seven years. Christmas 1842 must have been a bleak one in the Mendelssohn household; on 12 December the composer's mother, Lea, had died. Wealthy, cultured, intelligent and larger than life, Lea Mendelssohn had presided over a salon frequented by some of the greatest minds of the day. Mendelssohn's father, Abraham, had died some years earlier, so as the composer now wrote to his brother Paul: "We are children no longer." Understandably, fresh composition was difficult, and he started the new year by revising an old work - Die Erste Walpurgisnacht. Then there was a series of concerts to conduct in Berlin, along with the none-too-onerous 'duties' of his new, resounding-sounding appointment as Generalmusikdirector für kirchliche und geistliche Musik - although this did result in the incidental music to A Midsummer Night's Dream. When he had negotiated his new contract with the Prussian king, Friedrich Wilhelm IV, it had been agreed that Mendelssohn could spend part of 1843 in his old stamping-ground, Leipzig. On his arrival there he was promptly offered the job of Director of Music to the Saxon court - he declined, but managed to persuade King Frederick Augustus III to establish a new music conservatory in the city. He also conducted a series of eight subscription concerts, was granted the Freedom of the city of Leipzig, and unveiled a monument to his musical hero, J S Bach. Back in Berlin, he was driven up the wall by the Prussian government's shilly-shallying over the conditions attached to his new post in charge of church music. He worked off some of his frustration in paint - not just a prodigious composer, he was a talented artist as well - and in the composition of his exuberant 2nd Cello Sonata.

1 hour

Last on

Tue 6 Nov 2012 18:30

Composers A to Z

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