felix

Famous German Composer Felix Mendelssohn

Prelude

My journey of discovery into the extraordinary relationship that the famous German composer Felix Mendelssohn enjoyed with Queen Victoria and Prince Albert began back in 2009. Whilst researching his visit to North Wales, as outlined in my previous article (“Mendelssohn: Part 1 – In North Wales”), I discovered that he had made several visits to Buckingham Palace in London where he and the royals struck up a close friendship based on their mutual love of music and the arts.

Queen Victoria and Prince Albert as Musicians

Queen Victoria (1819-1901) and Prince Albert (1819-1861) were both very accomplished pianists and singers. Prince Albert was also a keen composer from an early age, writing many songs and choral pieces. It was their shared love of music that helped them form an attraction to each other. Victoria noted Albert’s skill at the piano when they first met in 1836. The day after the Queen’s proposal of marriage to Albert, she wrote, “…he sang to me some of his own compositions, which are beautiful, & he has a very fine voice. I also sang for him.” They enjoyed playing piano duets together and accompanying as the other sang, always taking their sheet music with them wherever they would travel. They were both keen followers of theatre and opera, Queen Victoria seeing up to 50 performances per year! Whilst in London as a youngster she would attend two or three performances in the West End each week!

Enter Mendelssohn: 14th and 15th of June, 1842

Prince Albert was an enthusiastic follower of Mendelssohn’s music and it was he who introduced the Queen to Felix’s works for piano and voice. The composer first met just the Prince on the morning of the 14th of June 1842 when he hand delivered a letter from Albert’s cousin, the King of Prussia (Frederick William IV). He was then invited to Buckingham Palace the following evening to meet the Queen. According to an account by Kupferberg, the royals were feeling quite nervous about meeting their musical hero; “for all their exalted station, [they] were quite fluttery!” Apparently, Mendelssohn felt the same way. [···]

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Prelude

20 year old Felix Mendelssohn by James Warren Childe, 1829

Back in 2009, I did an internet search one day to see if there were any fellow composers living near me. To my surprise the top search result was a brief article on Felix Mendelssohn’s visit to North Wales, UK! In all the years that I had known of Mendelssohn and his music, I had never heard of him coming to North Wales, especially as he stayed for ten days in the little village of Rhydymwyn which is a mere seven miles away from my house! My excitement was further heightened when I read in the article, that as well as working on several of his famed compositions during his stay, he also wrote three piano pieces specifically for the daughters of his host as a farewell present! As a pianist and composer myself, I impatiently waited for these compositions to arrive in the post so that I could find out what this great nineteenth century musical legend had written in my very own community! More information was contained in the music book’s Preface which intrigued me further and set me on a fascinating journey of research into a little known area of music history, even amongst locals!

Let me share with you a little of what I’ve discovered so far on my adventure…

 

First of Ten Visits to Britain, 21st April – 28th November, 1829

In 1829, the famous German composer Mendelssohn visited Britain for the first time. He was just 20 years old and having completed his education, his wealthy banking father offered to fund a three year tour of Europe to help him “find himself as a man and as an artist.” After several months soaking up the rich music scene in London, Mendelssohn journeyed up to Scotland with his travelling companion Karl Klingemann and there found inspiration for what would later become his ‘Scottish’ Symphony No. 3 in A minor (op. 56) and his Hebrides Overture ‘Fingal’s Cave’ (op. 26). After departing from Glasgow and journeying through the Lake District on the top of the Mail Coach at the impressive speed of

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