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Felix Mendelssohn & Bach
Part 2

Continue from Part 1

Dear Old Zelter

Yoël L. Arbeitman wrote (January 17, 2007):
Bradley Lehman wrote:
<< earliest performances (complete in one concert???) would most likely have been under Zelter's direction of the Berlin Singakademie. Zelter would have acquired all the original materials for the WO soon after CPE Bach's death (check the date) after which Zelter between acquisition of them and the time of his death in 1832 would most likely have performed them in public. Zelter had a copyist duplicate all the vocal parts with usually two extra parts for each voice for each cantata in the WO. These are all indications that it was performed during Zelter's lifetime. >>
< So, to be clear and assuming that this message is internally consistent: this speculation about Zelter's performance(s) is not in the NBA or its KB, correct? Only the record of the source material, that he prepared some parts? >
Excuse me for interrupting a Rathskeller encounter of Braatz and Lehmann but this is the selfsame Zelter to whom Goethe gave for evaluation Berlioz's opus1, his Huit Scènes de Faust. Young Berlioz sent this early version of what was the become the nucleus of his Damnation de Faust to Goethe, the poet of Faust. Old Goethe gave it to old Zelter who declared it to be nothing but croakings, sneezings, and vomitings. This fine work has only received recordings in the last 7 years. Beware wrinkled old ayatollahs of music.

Yoël L. Arbeitman wrote (January 18, 2007):
Queen Victoria and Felix and Hector and and

Bradley Lehman wrote:
< At least you've answered one small part. You admittedly looked at one New Grove article (online version), and have then added to it your own rather absurd assumption that that one single article should tell us every possible thing that's worthwhile to know about Mendelssohn. And then, from that, you've extrapolated further to assert that "there is no record", just because that one very short article (overviewing Mendelssohn's life and career) didn't happen to mention any such connection of Mendelssohn ever performing Bach's Christmas Oratorio (BWV 248). >
Like Zelter but based on more music, we assume, Her Majesty, Empress of the World, Queen Victoria, while she adored Felix in terms that can only be understood in the later world of England and the oratorio, abhorred Berlioz and his madness. This is all obvious. Mendelssohn and Berlioz are pretty much polar antipodes. The question is whether Queenie had any exposure to and then feeling about Bach.

Ed Myskowski wrote (January 18, 2007):
Yoël L. Arbeitman wrote:
< Beware wrinkled old ayatollahs of music. >
May I add, also beware wrinkled new ayatollahs of music?

Peter Smaill wrote (January 18, 2007):
<The question is whether Queenie had any exposure to and then feeling about Bach>
I'm fairly sure Queen Victoria had exposure to Bach. The evidence is at least ( I recall from reading this three decades ago) the reference in the Antonia Fraser bio that, as Prince Albert lay dying, the royal children took turns to play Bach chorales on the piano outside his bedroom.

In the middle of her reign (she being head of the Anglican church) the chorales came into frequent church use as a result of the "Chorale Book for England" where the texts of Bach chorales were translated by Catherine Winkworth.Wesley had already created enthusiasm for Bach's organ works with cathedral organists.

Unlike Wagner, who she met and appeared to like, we do not however as far as I am aware know her personal opinion of Bach's music but she would certainly have heard some.

Julian Mincham wrote (January 18, 2007):
Peter Smaill wrote:
< In the middle of her reign (she being head of the Anglican church) the chorales came into frequent church use as a result of the "Chorale Book for England" where the texts of Bach chorales were translated by Catherine Winkworth.Wesley had already created enthusiasm for Bach's organ works with cathedral organists. >
Also I recall reading somewhere that Mendelssohn played for the Queen and Albert??

I guess its also possible that some of his enthusiasm for Bach rubbed off?

Do we know what of Bach's keyboard music Mendelssohn played, if any?

Peter Smaill wrote (January 18, 2007):
[To Julian Mincham] As is noted in the Performers section of the BCW, Pablo Casals played for Queen Victoria in 1899 at her summer palace, Osborne house on the Isle of wight.

Acccording to the screenplay of the 1950's film about Stravinsky, Casals did play Bach even then : and this is what happened :

Casals,” responded Stravinsky, “used to close his eyes when he played Bach, so when he played for Queen Victoria he didn’t see her get up and walk out half-way through the piece. When he finished, he looked around, and she was gone.
‘What happened?’ Casals asked her man-in-waiting, ‘Didn’t she like it?’
‘Oh yes,” he said, “Her Majesty liked it very much.’
“Those two deserved each other.” Stravinsky added.

Julian Mincham wrote (January 18, 2007):
[To Peter Smaill] Nice story--I hadn't heard it before.

Douglas Cowling wrote (January 18, 2007):
Peter Smaill wrote:
< In the middle of her reign (she being head of the Anglican church) the chorales came into frequent church use as a result of the "Chorale Book for England" where the texts of Bach chorales were translated by Catherine Winkworth.Wesley had already created enthusiasm for Bach's organ works with cathedral organists. >
It's worth noting that Lutheran chorales were formally prohibited in the Anglican Church because of doctrinal and polity differences until the middle of the 19th century. The influence of the Bach revival probably played a major role in the softening of official hearts. However, even 150 years later, there are only about a dozen chorales which are "old favourites" among Anglicans.

Douglas Cowling wrote (January 18, 2007):
Yoël L. Arbeitman wrote:
< The question is whether Queenie had any exposure to and then feeling about Bach. >
Victoria's husband, Albert of Saxe-Cobour-Gotha was an accomplished amateur musician who played the organ in the royal residences. Alas, the classic Father Smith organ was destroyed in the recent fire at Windsor Castle. Both he and Victoria sang to Mendelssohn's piano accompaniment during the latter's visit. It was certainly the royal couple's intent to promote German culture in England, and I would guess that the organ music of Bach began to appear in the various Chapels Royal in the mid-19th century. I doubt that any of the choral music of Bach was peformed until the end of the century.

Bradley Lehman wrote (January 18, 2007):
Felix

Julian Mincham wrote:
<
Do we know what of Bach's keyboard music Mendelssohn played, if any? >
Well, he wrote his own little batch of preludes and fugues (opus 35, completed 1837), and they're pretty good. I worked on some of them on fortepiano, way back in lessons on that instrument.... Benjamin Frith's recording on Naxos (on big modern piano) is decent enough. I have that on my boombox right now.

Julian Mincham wrote (January 18, 2007):
Bradley Lehman wrote:
< Well, he wrote his own little batch of preludes and fugues (opus 35, completed 1837), and they're pretty good. >
Brad yep and M might well have considered them a sort of homage to JSB.

What I really wondered though, and have never read anything about it was whether there is any evidence that he played the WTC, suites etc either at public concerts or for his own enjoyment (i.e. mention in letters?) We know for example that Beethoven played WTC so scores would have been about.

Bradley Lehman wrote (January 18, 2007):
Julian Mincham wrote:
<
Brad yep and M might well have considered them a sort of homage to JSB. What I really wondered though, and have never read anything about it was whether there is any evidence that he played the WTC, suites etc either at public concerts or for his ownenjoyment (i.e. mention in letters?) >
I don't know for sure, either one way or the other, and I'll refrain from speculating on that.

He did of course know Bach's violin music, and improvised his own piano accompaniments to it (as has already been discussed).

The Oxford Composer Companion about Bach offers this, about Mendelssohn: "(...) As a performer, he regularly played Bach's keyboard concertos on the piano, and as an editor he published several of the organ works. The influence of Bach's music on his own compositions can best be seen in his chorale cantatas. With his practical and scholarly interests, Mendelssohn was one of the most influential figures in the conception of the first complete edition of Bach's works."

The 1984 7th edition of Baker's has a worklist, noting that Mendelssohn composed another half dozen piano fugues at various points in his career, in addition to the Opus 35 set that I've already mentioned; plus a set of three other preludes and fugues for organ, Op 37.

Thomas Braatz wrote (January 18, 2007):
Julian Mincham wrote:
>>Do we know what of Bach's keyboard music Mendelssohn played, if any?<<
Privately or publicly?

Privately he certainly had access to copies of the WTC 1 & 2 from which his sister, Fanny, also played all the preluedes and fugues. Mendelssohn, as a boy, accompanied Zelter on a few visits to Goethe in Weimar. While Mendelssohn's performance of Bach's music was not Goethe's first acquaintance with Bach's music (the local organist had been playing Bach for Goethe before these visits by Mendelssohn and Zelter), nevertheless, it can be assumed that Mendelssohn, among other compositions (some of his own) did play some of the WTC on those occasions. Mendelssohn gave organ concerts in England where he most likely also played some of Bach's organ works (along with his own improvisations and compositions (Organ Sonatas). The NBA KBs give reports on manuscript copies (not always autograph manuscripts) with which Mendelssohn's name is connected. Bach manuscript collectors would sometimes ask him his opinion on whether a manuscript was genuine or not.

From R. Larry Todd's article on Mendelssohn in the Grove Music Online, Oxford University Press, 2007, acc. 1/18/07:

>>For the next four years Mendelssohn was based in Leipzig, presiding over the brilliant concert life of the city. In February 1838 he inaugurated a series of historical concerts, organized 'according to the order of the most celebrated masters from the last one hundred years up to the present'. A similar series, in 1841, comprised five concerts, with programmes devoted to Bach and Händel, Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven and contemporary composers. Mendelssohn's Bachian pursuits found further outlets in a piano accompaniment he devised for the Chaconne in D minor for solo violin (performed with Ferdinand David in February 1840) and in a challenging organ concert of Bach's music presented in the Thomaskirche in August 1840, as part of an effort to raise funds for a new Bach monument.<<

There are complete listings of the concerts Mendelssohn conducted in Leipzig over 4 or 5 years in the Allgemeine Musikalische Zeitung, June & July issues, 1840 and also in Robert Schumann's reviews of the Leipzig concert seasons: 1837/38, 1839/40, 1840/41.

I do not have access to either of these and presume that the great bulk of listings pertain to the orchestral works he conducted with the Gewandhaus Orchestra: Moscheles, Hiller, Kalliwoda, Reissiger, F. Schneider, Gade, Lachner, St. Bennett, J. Rietz, among others. He did, however, express the idea that it was his duty to also present works by Händel and Bach.

Information from NBA KB VII/4 p. 39.

Bach's Concerto in D minor for harpsichord BWV 1052

Mendelssohn, in a letter (1/31/1837) to Aloys Fuchs (1799-1853), a Viennese manuscript collector, from whom Mendelssohn had borrowed a score of the concerto, which Fuchs wanted returned back to him again, responds as follows; "I will send the concerto by S. Bach to you as soon as possible; it is truly an insufferable situation here [in Leipzig] with these copyists. They need more time for copying than I do for composing!" In a little more than 5 weeks from the date of the letter, Mendelssohn would be playing this concerto with the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra. Since the rest of the correspondence between Mendelssohn and Fuchs is missing, the NBA KB also considered the possibility that Mendelssohn owned the original copy, had intended to send it to Fuchs so that he could make his own copy, but now Mendelssohn, who had not allowed enough time for his copyists to finish the job, was informing Fuchs of the delay in this matter.

The first printed edition of the concerto appeared the following year, in 1838. It was published by the Kistner Publishers in Leipzig. The BGA edition appeard in 1869.

Yoël L. Arbeitman wrote (January 19, 2007):
Peter Smaill wrote:
< Unlike Wagner, who she met and appeared to like, we do not however as far >as I am aware know her personal opinion of Bach's music but she would >certainly have heard some. >
I understand that you state we do not know (to your awareness) her personal opinion of Bach's MUSIC. But you also state that she met and appeared to like Herr Wagner. Are you referring to personally liking the wicked dude or liking his music? Thank you,

Yoël L. Arbeitman wrote (January 19, 2007):
Douglas Cowling wrote:
< It's worth noting that Lutheran chorales were formally prohibited in the Anglican Church because of doctrinal and polity differences until the middle of the 19th century. The influence of the Bach revival probably played a major role in the softening of official hearts. However, even 150 years later, there are only about a dozen chorales which are "old favourites" among Anglicans. >
I shall not divert to anything offtopic but many Westerners have only very recently become aware of the depth of feeling between two different main groups of another major religion and are startled to learn of the results. It is amazing what religious belief can do for human acrimony.

I am intentionally avoiding any mentioning of what we all know I am referring to. And of course such bitternesses develop in human affairs without religions as well. I'll stick with music and forget about the rest of the baggage.

Yoël L. Arbeitman wrote (January 19, 2007):
Peter Smaill wrote:
< As is noted in the Performers section of the BCW, Pablo Casals played for Queen Victoria in 1899 at her summer palace, Osborne house on the Isle of wight. >
YIKES. That is amazing.

< Acccording to the screenplay of the 1950's film about Stravinsky, Casals did play Bach even then : and this is what happened: >
OK, this is a screenplay and means little, right?

< “Casals,” responded Stravinsky, “used to close his eyes when he played Bach, so when he played for Queen Victoria he didn’t see her get up and walk out half-way through the piece. When he finished, he looked around, and she was gone.
‘What happened?’
Casals asked her man-in-waiting, ‘Didn’t she like it?’
‘Oh yes,” he said, “Her Majesty liked it very much.’
“Those two deserved each other.” Stravinsky added. >
This is unfortunately not very legible. It is a funny story at all events.

Yoël L. Arbeitman wrote (January 19, 2007):
Bradley Lehman wrote:
<< Well, he wrote his own little batch of preludes and fugues (opus 35, completed 1837), and they're pretty good. >>
Julian Mincham wrote:
< Brad yep and M might well have considered them a sort of homage to JSB >
unfortunately Felix's Lutheran music, esp. his oratorios and other religious vocal works are of a very different nature from anything baroque and to my ears are simply boring. A friend of mine says (I believe he says it well) that a Mendelssohn oratorio is like a long church service.

Douglas Cowlingwrote (January 19, 2007):
Yoël L. Arbeitman wrote:
< I am intentionally avoiding any mentioning of what we all know I am referring to. And of course such bitternesses develop in human affairs without religions as well. I'll stick with music and forget about the rest of the baggage. >
I would say that you can't throw out the baggage or you lose the Bach. As historians, we can study religious systems as sociological and philosophical phenomena without having to assent to their beliefs or judge their vailidity. In the case of Bach, the music does not make sense without its historical matrix. I can admire the erotic carvings on an Indian temple, but I will not understand them until I study the theological system which explains them.

Yoël L. Arbeitman wrote (January 19, 2007):
Douglas Cowling wrote:
< I would say that you can't throw out the baggage or you lose the Bach. As historians, we can study religious systems as sociological and philosophical phenomena without having to assent to their beliefs or judge their vailidity. >
I believe that I have sufficient knowledge of Christianity (I've read the New Testament in Greek and Latin most of my life). I've even indulged a bit in Nag Hamadi and so forth. I don't think that I or anyone really needs to be concerned about the differences between Lutheran and Anglican something that you were referring to in order to appreciate Bach. I don't disagree that one needs to know something about Christianity to appreciate Bach and many others and back to Dante and El Greco and so forth of a previous discussion. Don't get me wrong: I am not saying that your own deep interest in such differences within Protestant Christianity is out of place, just that it is simply more than I believe anyone outside of the tradition needs to know.

< In the case of Bach, the music does not make sense without its historical matrix. I can admire the erotic carvings on an Indian temple, but I will not understand them until I study the theological system which explains them. >

I will leave you to your own erotic fantasies:-).
On a totally separate matter. I just shut LHL with those Harbison songs on the radio. Do I feel guilty? Well, I thought about, I pondered whether I should feel guilty and I then I got this odd idea that She (rest her soul) should feel guilty. And then I said, Nah, she was fulfilling herself and the record companies are fulfilling themselves.That's my theology.

Douglas Cowling wrote (January 19, 2007):
Yoël L. Arbeitman wrote:
< I don't think that I or anyone really needs to be concerned about the differences between Lutheran and Anglican something that you were referring to in order to appreciate Bach. I don't disagree that one needs to know something about Christianity to appreciate Bach and many others and back to Dante and El Greco and so forth of a previous discussion. Don't get me wrong: I am not saying that your own deep interest in such differences within Protestant Christianity is out of place, just that it is simply more than I believe anyone outside of the tradition needs to know. >
I disagree. The historical situation in 19th century England tells us a lot about progress of the Bach revival in the English-speaking world. Attitudes to Bach and the perceived competition between Bach and Händel in popular taste are important factors in the way in which modern audeinces understand Bach. The modern ubiquity of Händel's Messiah and the perennial paucity of performamces of the Christmas Oratorio (BWV 248) are the direct results of the theological dabtes of the early 19th century.

Ed Myskowski wrote (January 19, 2007):
Douglas Cowling wrote:
< I would say that you can't throw out the baggage or you lose the Bach. As historians, we can study religious systems as sociological and philosophical phenomena without having to assent to their beliefs or judge their vailidity. In the case of Bach, the music does not make sense without its historical matrix. I can admire the erotic carvings on an Indian temple, but I will not understand them until I study the theological system which explains them. >
Carefully, concisely, and accurately stated. Thank you.

Peter Smaill wrote (January 19, 2007):
Likewise it was amazing for me to discover that Pablo Casals (1876-1973) had played for Queen Victoria in 1899. As for the Stravinsky story about the reaction of the Queen to Bach and the shut-eyed Casals - there may indeed be artistic licence about it. Here is the link for those who found the AOL scrape in my post illegible: http://www.phfilms.com/index.php/phf/film/a_stravinsky_portrait_1965/

Did Queen Victoria like Wagner and/or his music? The evidence suggests both:

(London in 1855) "The penultimate concert of the series was attended by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, who led the applause for the Tannhauser overture...They delighted him even more by receiving him in a manner both respectful and friendly during the interval. He valued their support and did not fail to point out to Liszt the irony of the royalty of Englandconsorting with one considered guilty of high treson in his own country." (Millington, "Wagner")

In 1860 Wagner was again presented to the Queen at Windsor Castle.

According to the former head of the classical channel BBC Radio 3 with whom I discussed the audience, one of the subjects of the royal conversation was the silk undergarments that (famously) Wagner, and it appears (less known) , Prince Albert, favoured. But I have never read the story so cannot vouch for it!

Peter Smaill wrote (January 19, 2007):
Queen Victoria/Bach

Another connection tending towards the view that this monarch encouraged the Bach reception in the United Kingdom is as follows, being the early history of London's Bach Choir:

"From the outset there was a connection with Royalty. Jenny Lind-Goldschmidt was popular with the royal family, and Princess Christian, the third daughter of Queen Victoria, received piano lessons from Otto Goldschmidt and became one of the first singing members. The Queen herself became patron in 1879."

As previously mentioned, the tradition of the British royal family being connected with the Bach Choir continues: both Prince Charles and the Duchess of Kent sang in the chorus at the tercentenary performance of the B Minor mass at the Albert Hall in 1985.

Bradley Lehman wrote (January 19, 2007):
Julian asked:
<< What I really wondered though, and have never read anything about it was whether there is any evidence that he played the WTC, suites etc either at public concerts or for his own enjoyment (i.e. mention in letters?) >>
I replied:
< I don't know for sure, either one way or the other, and I'll refrain from speculating on that. >
So to find out more, yesterday I sent the following question to a colleague whose dissertation was on 18th-19th century WTC reception.

< A rather quick question for you: do you happen to know the extent (if any) that Mendelssohn ever performed any of the WTC in public? >
His response:
< I'm not aware of any public concerts that Mendelssohn gave that included any P&Fs from the WTC, though he certainly played much (if not all) of it in more intimate gatherings, along with his sister. I suppose it depends on your meaning of "in public," since some of those domestic events surely had decent crowds of admirers. >
Good enough for me!

Julian Mincham wrote (January 18, 2007):
[To Bradley Lehman & Thomas Braatz] Thanks for the comments about Mendelssohn's playing of the WTC. I felt sure that he must know the works well although I had never read any info on it.

The comments offered also make one woder if he knew and played the suites and partitas as well.

Bradley Lehman wrote (January 19, 2007):
Dear Old Zelter (not anymore)

<<
Beware wrinkled old ayatollahs of music.
May I add, also beware wrinkled new ayatollahs of music? >>
< May I make bold to add "LOL" ?
There is no documentary evidence that he is wrinkled. >
That's true; any new ayatollah could just be a reallysmart calico cat who can type, for all we know. The conveniently available evidence before the public is so scanty that we probably just have to guess. Wrinkled or not, that's merely cosmetic anyway. Nothing ventured nothing gained. What we do know, for absolute sure, is that all HIP Conductors are out to Ruin the music to serve their own wrong Agendas, along with being Stupid and unable to read the reserch in their own Field. They obviously don't care about Bachs Intentions or get what's imporant. And it's too fast and irreverant. Those HIP Conductors are succh Mean Boys, plus their Stupid and Uncaring and Mean!

 

Sarah Itzig Levy & Bach family

Teddy Kaufman wrote (January 24, 2007):
Some historical facts regarding the close relations and support of the Itzig & Mendelsshon families with JS Bach sons follows:

"The Itzigs were a prominent Berlin banking family. The scion of the family, Isaak's father Daniel Itzig, a financier to King Frederick II (the Great), was an elder statesman of the Berlin Jewish community, and a spokesman for the emancipation of Prussian Jews. He had sixteen children. One of his granddaughters, Lea Itzig Solomon, married Moses Mendelssohn's son, Abraham. Their son was the composer Felix Mendelssohn.

Both Moses Mendelssohn and Daniel Itzig were direct descendants of the famous scholar, Rabbi Moses Isserles of Krakow (1520-1572). It was this extended family of Moses Mendelssohn and Daniel Itzig, along with two of J.S. Bach's sons, Wilhelm Friedemann and Carl Philipp Emanuel, who kept Bach's music alive, and provided the context for the famous 1829 revival of the St. Matthew Passion by Moses Mendelssohn's grandson Felix.

As a young girl, Daniel Itzig's daughter, Sara Itzig Levy (b. 1763) studied music with Wilhelm Friedemann Bach. She became his prize pupil and, later, his most significant financial patron. She also studied the music of C.P.E. Bach, and, at his death, she became the patron of his widow. Sara commissioned a bust of C.P.E. Bach which, years later, was placed in the concert hall of the Royal Theater in Berlin.

Other members of the Itzig family helped finance the Bachs as well. Four Itzigs were subscribers to the Bachs' music. (Music and literary compositions were, in this period, financed by individual subscriptions.)

Beginning in the 1780's, Sara hosted and directed family musikabends (house-concerts), where she championed the works of J.S. and C.P.E. Bach. These musikabends were famous, and friends from leading intellectual and music circles would always attend. (The family was so committed to the Bachs, that they were accused of running a Bach cult!)

This is all the more remarkable, since at that time Bach's music was rarely performed in public, and his scores were not widely available. Very few of Bach's works had been printed during his lifetime. With the exception of "A Musical Offering" (1761), not one complete work of Bach was printed between 1750 and 1800. The few copies available were usually rented out, or copies were made of an individual work by hand. Wilhelm Friedemann and Carl Philipp Emanuel had divided between themselves the scores of the five yearly cycles of their fathers's cantatas, which had otherwise never been published.

Felix Mendelssohn's mother, Lea Itzig Solomon, was Sara's niece. She received piano lessons from the same Kirnberger who trained Moses Mendelssohn, and it was she who trained young Felix and his siblings in the rudiments of the keyboard, basing her instruction upon Bach's "Well-Tempered Clavier." (Felix's sister Fanny had memorized the "Well-Tempered Clavier" by age thirteen!)

In 1791, Karl Friedrich Christian Fasch, also a well-known disciple of J.S. Bach and a collaborator of his son C.P.E. Bach, founded the Berlin Choral Society. Fasch was then the accompanist to Frederick II.

The Choral Society served a crucial role, as did Sara Itzig Levy's musikabends, in keeping Bach's music alive. Not only did the Itzig and Mendelssohn families fund the Academy, Sara Itzig Levy was its first harpsichord soloist, often performing the works of Bach. Most importantly, she donated her entire music library to the Academy, including her original Bach manuscripts!

To honor the revered Moses Mendelssohn, director Fasch composed musical settings of Mendelssohn's texts and translations. He also set to music a Chanukah prayer for his Jewish friends, and there are indications that he may have written music for other Hebrew prayers as well.

Both Kirnberger and Fasch were the music teachers of Karl Friedrich Zelter. At Fasch's death in 1800, Zelter became the director of the Choral Society, where he, like Fasch, maintained a commitment to Bach by performing a significant number of his choral works.

Under Zelter's direction, the accomplished Sara Itzig Levy was the first soloist at the Choral Society; she frequently performed J.S. Bach concerti on the harpsichord.

It was she who recommended to her niece, Lea Mendelssohn, that Zelter become Felix's music teacher. So, as the noted biographer of Felix Mendelssohn, Eric Werner notes, Felix was really a great-grand-pupil of J.S. Bach!

The Mendelssohns and Itzigs were financial patrons of the Bach-centered Choral Society for several decades. In their early teens, both Felix and his sister, the composer Fanny Mendelssohn, were trained in voice at the Society, and were members of the choir. This training helped prepare young Felix to later conduct the St. Matthew Passion.

In 1823, Felix learned that Zelter owned a complete manuscript of the St. Matthew Passion, and his grandmother Babette Itzig Solomon was able to secure a copy from Zelter, which she passed on to Felix. By 1829, when Felix was twenty years old, with urging from his friend and collaborator, singer Edward Devrient, he approached Zelter with the proposition that he be allowed to conduct a performance of the Passion at the Choral Society. For Felix, not only was it the hundredth anniversary of the premiere of Bach's work, it was also the hundredth anniversary of the year in which his grandfather Moses, whom he revered, was born. Zelter finally agreed."
(http://www.schillerinstitute.org/fid_97-01/992_mend_spm.html )

Julian Mincham wrote (January 24, 2007):
[To Teddy Kaufman] Teddy thanks for this fascinating information and also the reference.

Interesting that there seemed to be a time lag after Bach's death and before his music and the support of his family was taken up. Certainly his youngest and longest suviving daughter Regina Susannah received some support in old age but in the 10 years that Anna Magdalena survived her husband she seems to have received nothing.

Douglas Cowling wrote (January 24, 2007):
Teddy Kaufman wrote:
< To honor the revered Moses Mendelssohn, director Fasch composed musical settings of Mendelssohn's texts and translations. He also set to music a Chanukah prayer for his Jewish friends, and there are indications that he may have written music for other Hebrew prayers as well. >
Has this music been published?

Yoël L. Arbeitman wrote (January 24, 2007):
Teddy Kaufman wrote:
< To honor the revered Moses Mendelssohn, director Fasch composed musical settings of Mendelssohn's texts and translations. He also set to music a Chanukah prayer for his Jewish friends, and there are indications that he may have written music for other Hebrew prayers as well. >
This is a fascinating report on which I have some questions but for later.Right now I am a bit uncertain whether Fasch set Hebrew or German (translated from Hebrew) prayers.

In 1820 Franz Schubert set Ps. 23 in Moses Mendelssohn's translation but in 1828 he did a setting of Psalm 92 in Hebrew. This Hebrew is recorded in the Capriccio (out of print) CD Franz Schubert:Geistliche Chormusik, stupidly giving only the German text.

For various reasons this setting is not suitable for synagogue usage (a study is presented a cantor of a later generation). It was then used in Germany with Moses Mendelssohn's translation which is how it is recorded on another set of Schubert's Sacred Choral Music.

Bradley Lehman wrote (January 24, 2007):
< In 1791, Karl Friedrich Christian Fasch, also a well-known disciple of J.S. Bach and a collaborator of his son C.P.E. Bach, founded the Berlin Choral Society. Fasch was then the accompanist to Frederick II. >
Fasch became Big Fred's harpsichordist (position held jointly with CPE) around 1757, when he (Fasch) was 20. But he wasn't still Big Fred's harpsichordist in 1791, as Big Fred had died in 1786.

< Both Kirnberger and Fasch were the music teachers of Karl Friedrich Zelter. At Fasch's death in 1800, Zelter became the director of the Choral Society, where he, like Fasch, maintained a commitment to Bach by performing a significant number of his choral works. >
And Zelter wrote a biography of Fasch, published 1801 in Berlin.

< To honor the revered Moses Mendelssohn, director Fasch composed musical settings of Mendelssohn's texts and translations. He also set to music a Chanukah prayer for his Jewish friends, and there are indications that he may have written music for other Hebrew prayers as well. >
Maybe among the six volumes of his sacred works published by the Singakademie in 1839?

(Baker's entry on Fasch; New Grove might have a worklist, I don't know)

Douglas Cowling wrote (January 24, 2007):
Bradley Lehman wrote:
< Fasch became Big Fred's harpsichordist (position held jointly with CPE) around 1757, when he (Fasch) was 20. But he wasn't still Big Fred's harpsichordist in 1791, as Big Fred had died in 1786. >
Sometimes known as Big Dead Fred after 1786.

Bradley Lehman wrote (January 24, 2007):
<< In 1791, Karl Friedrich Christian Fasch, also a well-known disciple of J.S. Bach and a collaborator of his son C.P.E. Bach, founded the Berlin Choral Society. Fasch was then the accompanist to Frederick II.
< Fasch became Big Fred's harpsichordist (position held jointly with
CPE) around 1757, when he (Fasch) was 20. But he wasn't still Big Fred's harpsichordist in 1791, as Big Fred had died in 1786. >
Plus Fred's music program had pretty much fallen apart anyway in 1763, getting back from the war and having a financial shortfall. CPE looked around for fresh opportunities and finally got his release from Fred, starting a new job in Hamburg 1768.

Eric Bergerud wrote (January 25, 2007):
[To Bradley Lehman] Enough of this Fred bashing. It's probably true that he was a bisexual misanthrope. It's also true that he plunged Europe into 25 years of warfare that set the stage for American Independence, the French Revolution and Otto von Bismarck. And perhaps Fred treated his musicians like serfs. However he did like dogs. And, whether he ever heard the work or not, he was responsible for Musical Offering. That should even things out.

Ed Myskowski wrote (January 25, 2007):
[To Eric Bergerud] Not exactly, mon ami. Oh, that was an American attempt at irony? Never mind.

Yoël L. Arbeitman wrote (January 25, 2007):
Bradley Lehman wrote:
<< In 1791, Karl Friedrich Christian Fasch, also a well-known disciple of J.S. Bach and a collaborator of his son C.P.E. Bach, founded the Berlin Choral Society. Fasch was then the accompanist to Frederick II. >>
< Fasch became Big Fred's harpsichordist (position held jointly with
CPE) around 1757, when he (Fasch) was 20. But he wasn't still Big Fred's harpsichordist in 1791, as Big Fred had died in 1786. >
I am wondering how a post that indicates a massive Jewish conspiracy to establish a cult of JSB in Germany got turned into a thread about a Prussian Emperor.

Even if you don't buy the Jewish Banking Conspiracy theory concerning the activities of those
Itzigs and Solomons and Mendelssohns, well a friend to whom I sent Teddy's post wrote me the following:
==========
This is all fascinating. You should read R. Larry Todd's biography of Mendelssohn (Felix, that is). I started to read it, and it is still sitting on the shelf, but then I moved to Florida and other things cropped up. Remember that Jews in the German States at this time could not become citizens.

Todd says that, when Felix was born, his parents had already planned to convert him (and the other kids), so, to make this easier, they specifically did not have him lopped.
==========
"Lopped" in my friend's usage means "circumcised" apparently.

Shabtai Atlow wrote (January 25, 2007):
[To Teddy Kaufman] Thanks for this fascinating post.

2 questions:

< Both Moses Mendelssohn and Daniel Itzig were direct descendants of the famous scholar, Rabbi Moses Isserles of Krakow (1520-1572). >
Is there a souce/family tree available to trace this lineage?

< He also set to music a Chanukah prayer for his Jewish friends, >
Could this be be popular tune for Maoz Tzur, in use until today?

Thanks,

Yoël L. Arbeitman wrote (January 25, 2007):
Shabtai Atlow wrote:
<< Both Moses Mendelssohn and Daniel Itzig were direct descendants of the famous scholar, Rabbi Moses Isserles of Krakow (1520-1572). >>
< Is there a souce/family tree available to trace this lineage? >
Yup, Shabtai, I need a tree just to follow all the persons (otherwise denominated as "dudes") on the various sides of the ancestors and relatives of Sara Itzig and Felix himself that were mentioned; I can diagram some of that tree myself but it really is complex.

<< He also set to music a Chanukah prayer for his Jewish friends, >>
< Could this be be popular tune for Maoz Tzur, in use until today? >
I am sure it is not the (I assume your intent was to write "could this be the popular tune") the tune we hear today but you are most likely correct that it was a setting of Maoz Tsur since there really isn't any other Chanukkah music, is there? Unfortunately we don't have a minister of Jewish music on this list, an equivalent of Doug C.

Teddy Kaufman wrote (January 26, 2007):
[To Shabtai Atlow & Yoël L. Arbeitman] I am enclosing a most fascinating description regarding the Maoz Tzur melody, which originated from an old German folk-song:

"The bright and stirring tune now so generally associated with "Ma'oz tzur" serves as the "representative theme" in musical references to the feast (comp. Addir Hu; A&#7731;damut; Hallel). Indeed, it has come to be regarded as the only Hannukah melody, four other Hebrew hymns for the occasion being also sung to it (comp. Zunz, l.c. pp. 422, 429; D. Kaufmann, in "Ha-Asif," ii. 298), as well as G. Gottheil's paraphrase, "Rock of Ages," in the "Union Hymnal" (No. 107). It was originally sung for "Shene Zetim" ("Olives Twain"), the "Me'orah," or piyyut, next preceding the Shema 'in the Morning Service of the (first) Sabbath in the eight days of the Feast of Dedication. Curiously enough, "Shene Zetim" alone is now sometimes sung to a melody which two centuries ago was associated rather with "Ma'oz tzur." The latter is a Jewish-sounding air in the minor mode, and is found in Benedetto Marcello's "Estro Poetico Armonico," or "Parafrasi Sopra li Salmi" (Venice, 1724), quoted as a melody of the German Jews, and utilized by Marcello as the theme for his "Psalm XV." This air has been transcribed by Cantor Birnbaum of Königsberg in the "Israelitische Wochenschrift" (1878, No. 51)

The present melody for the Hanukkah hymn has been identified by Birnbaum as an adaptation from the old German folk-song "So weiss ich eins, dass mich erfreut, das pluemlein auff preiter heyde," given in Böhme's "Altdeutsches Liederbuch" (No. 635); it was widely spread among German Jews as early as 1450. By an interesting coincidence, this folk-melody was also the first utilized by Luther for his German chorals. He set it to his "Nun freut euch lieben Christen gmein" (comp. Julian, "Dictionary of Hymnology," s. v. "Sing praise to God who above"). It is familiar among English-speaking people as the tune for a translation by F. E. Cox of the hymn "Sei lob und ehr dem höchsten gut," by J. J. Schütz (1640-1730). As such it is called "Erk" (after the German hymnologist), and, with harmonies by Bach, appears as No. 283 of "Hymns, Ancient and Modern" (London, 1875). The earliest transcription of the Jewish form of the tune is due to Isaac Nathan, who set it, very clumsily indeed, to the poem "On Jordan's Banks" in Byron's "Hebrew Melodies" (London, 1815). Later transcriptions have been numerous, and the air finds a place in every collection of Jewish melodies. It was modified to the form now favored by English Jews by the delicate liturgical taste of Mombach, to whom is due the modulation to the dominant in the repetition of the first strain, shown in the transcription above."
( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ma'oz_Tzur )

Teddy Kaufman wrote (January 26, 2007):
[To Shabtai Atlow] I am enclosing the following citation.

" Itzig-Mendelssohn descendancy. Siblings-14: Isaak Daniel (brother-in-law of silk manufacturer, author David FRIEDLÄNDER), Fanny Itzig von ARNSTEIN, Sara Itzig LEVY, Babette Itzig SOLOMON (daughter, Lea m. Abraham MENDELSSOHN, son of Moses + Fromet GUGENHEIM, grandfarther of Felix MENDELSSOHN), etc. Both Moses Mendelssohn and Daniel Itzig are direct descendants of the famous scholar, Rabbi Moses ISSERLES of Krakow (1520-1572) " http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.com/~prohel/names/loew/eskeles/eskelesdes.html

Please see the following link: http://www.us.oup.com/pdf/0195110439_intro.pdf

Shabtai Atlow wrote (January 26, 2007):
[To Yoël L. Arbeitman] While not offering my services as Minister (Rabbi?) of Jewish music, I do know something about it - Besides Maoz Zur, there is:

*Hanerot Halalu - said or sang immediately after lighting the candles. My favorite tune for this is actually a Lubavitch tune. Interstingly, there does not seem to be any Modzitz tune.

* A Sabbath Zmira for the Sabbath of Chanuka, written by the renowned R. Abraham Ibn Ezra (whose father's name was not Ezra) - I know of two tunes for this, but I cannot point to any source for either tune.

* The 30th Psalm (Mizmor Shir Chanukat Habayit) - which actually should be said after Maoz Tzur - see the last words of Maoz Tzur - "Az egmor, bshir mizmor chanukat hamizbayach" - then I will finish with a song of dedication of the altar, a clear play on Psalm 30.

 

Mendelssohn and Die Neuchristen

Yoël L. Arbeitman wrote (March 16, 2007):
I came upon this accidentally and it is more than horrid: http://www.smerus.pwp.blueyonder.co.uk/mendelssohnx.htm

I shall pray to forget about Clara and Robert. Botstein's comment is excellent.

Cara Emily Thornton wrote (March 16, 2007):
[To Yoël L. Arbeitman] As far as Botstein's comment is concerned, I'd stop after the word 'perverse' and leave the rest.

Yoël L. Arbeitman wrote (March 17, 2007):
Cara Emily Thornton wrote:
< As far as Botstein's comment is concerned, I'd stop after the word 'perverse' and leave the rest. >
Botstein's comment was, after the author's own comment: "The simplest refutation of Wagner is perhaps just to listen to the music afresh, especially the chamber works; but Leon Botstein's comment is a propos: [Wagner's] critique of Mendelssohn's music was wrong, but his exploitation of Mendelssohn as a symbol of the modern European assimilated Jew was perverse, brilliant and historically appropriate".

Nah, I think Botstein was spot on. What fascinates me is the total worship that another Jewish convert, Gustav Mahler, had for Wagner. Of passing interest is that Hitler's infatuation with Wagner began when as a youth he heard the Jew Mahler conduct Tristan.

 

GORGEOUS CANTATAS

Michael Cox wrote (December 28, 2010):
Felix Mendelssohn reportedly said or wrote that the music of Bach's cantatas was "gorgeous". And we would all certainly agree with Mendelssohn's opinion.

However, I have no recollection of where and when I acquired this piece of information - in a book about Mendelssohn, in a book about Bach's cantatas or in one of Mendelssohn's letters?

Can any of you help? What was the German word that Mendelssohn used for "gorgeous" and what is the exact reference?

Danke schön!

 

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