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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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music teachers helperSix years of tertiary training gave me the musical knowledge I use everyday in my studio, but when I started teaching I quickly realized that there was a lot more to teaching than music. I’ve compiled a list of  qualities every great teacher needs. While many teachers spend the summer reflecting on or increasing their musical knowledge and skills, perhaps there is also time  to consider where you stand on the essential non-musical skills also. [···]

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Last month I wrote about developing a steady sense of pulse in performance. Interestingly, the comments left by others at the end of the post addressed the notion of teaching rhythm, rather than pulse.

I found this fascinating, because the student who I was thinking about when I wrote the blog doesn’t struggle with rhythm directly. Of course, if you can’t keep a steady pulse then rhythm consequently becomes problematic, but the student is perfectly capable of clapping or playing a rhythm correctly if I am keeping the pulse for her. So her problem lies with pulse, and problems with rhythm and fluency occur merely as a symptom of that.

However, the focus on rhythm rather than pulse in the comments section of last month’s blog, made me realise that rhythm obviously at the forefront of many teachers’ minds.  So, listed below are my top 5 tips for helping students counteract rhythmic problems: [···]

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