Stress Management, Classical Music, and Enesco

Dinner Topics for Friday

Romanian Rhapsody

 

Stress Management, Classical Music, and Enesco

Enescu24George Enescu known in France as Georges Enesco; 19 August 1881, Liveni – 4 May 1955, Paris) was a Romanian composer, violinist, pianist, conductor and teacher.

Enescu was born in the village of Liveni (later renamed “George Enescu” in his honor), Dorohoi County at the time, today Botoşani County. He showed musical talent from early in his childhood. A child prodigy, Enescu created his first musical composition at the age of five.[1] Shortly thereafter, his father presented him to the professor and composer Eduard Caudella. At the age of seven, he entered the Vienna Conservatory, where he studied with Joseph Hellmesberger, Jr., Robert Fuchs, and Sigismund Bachrich. He graduated before his 13th birthday, earning the silver medal. In his Viennese concerts young Enescu played works by Brahms, Sarasate and Mendelssohn. In 1895 he went to Paris to continue his studies. He studied violin with Martin Pierre Marsick, harmony with André Gedalge, and composition with Jules Massenet and Gabriel Fauré.

Many of Enescu’s works were influenced by Romanian folk music, his most popular compositions being the two Romanian Rhapsodies (1901-2), the opera Œdipe (1936), and the suites for orchestra.[citation needed] He also wrote five symphonies (two of them unfinished), a symphonic poem Vox maris, and much chamber music (three sonatas for violin and piano, two for cello and piano, a piano trio, two string quartets and two piano quartets, a wind decet (French, “dixtuor”), an octet for strings, a piano quintet, and a chamber symphony for twelve solo instruments). A young Ravi Shankar recalled in the 1960s how Enescu, who had developed a deep interest in Oriental music, rehearsed with Shankar’s brother Uday Shankar and his musicians. Around the same time, Enescu took the young Yehudi Menuhin to the Colonial Exhibition in Paris, where he introduced him to the Gamelan Orchestra from Indonesia.[

More about Enescu

 

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Judeo-Christian Culture: Stress Relief Ideas, Survival Guide for Hard Times

This gallery contains 9 photos.

Judeo-Christian Culture: Stress Relief Ideas—Your 9-Point Survival Guide for Hard Times By David Dickson Hang in there! Better days ahead. Accidentally ripping your brand-new shirt or losing your math homework is one thing. Losing a loved one is quite another. … Continue reading

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Western Culture Dinner Topics Newsletter: Foundation of Faith

Western Culture Dinner Topics Newsletter: Foundation of Faith August  2017 Welcome to Western Culture Dinner Topics!  WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT? In the 70s, there was a popular song by that title. Nowadays there are many people wandering the streets, who … Continue reading

Stress Relief Ideas: Obey the Commandments

Stress Relief Ideas:

Obey the Commandments

The Commandments of God are like warning signs along the road of life—they keep us out of the danger zones. Keep the Commandments. It is not always easy, but in the long run, as one Christian leader said, it is easier to Prepare and Prevent than to Repair and Repent. ~C.D.

Keep the Commandments

Keep the commandments! In this there is safety; in this there is peace.

He will send blessings, He will send blessings.

Words of a prophet;

Keep the commandments.

In this there is safety and peace.

Text and music: Barbara A. McConochie

Stress Management, Classical Music, and Edvard Grieg

Dinner Topics for Friday

keyold

Wherefore, whoso believeth in God might with surety hope for a better world, yea, even a place at the right hand of God, which hope cometh of faith, maketh an anchor to the souls of men. ~Ether 12:4

YouTube Music: Peer Gynt Suites 1 and 2

Piano Concerto in A minor

From Wikipedia

220px-Eilif_Peterssen-Edvard_Grieg_1891Edvard Hagerup Grieg  (15 June 1843 – 4 September 1907) was a Norwegian composer and pianist. He is widely considered one of the leading Romantic era composers, and his music is part of the standard classical repertoire worldwide. His Norwegian folk music compositions put the Music of Norway in the international spectrum.

Edvard Hagerup Grieg was born in Bergen, Norway on the 15 June 1843. His parents were Alexander Grieg (1806–1875), a merchant and vice consul in Bergen, and Gesine Judithe Hagerup (1814–1875), a music teacher and daughter of Edvard Hagerup.[1][2] The family name, originally spelled Greig, has Scottish origins. After the Battle of Culloden in 1746, Grieg’s great-grandfather traveled widely, settling in Norway about 1770, and establishing business interests in Bergen.

Edvard Grieg was raised in a musical area. His mother was his first piano teacher and taught him to play at the age of six. Grieg studied in several schools, including Tanks Upper School, and Tanks School.[3]

In the summer of 1858, Grieg met the eminent Norwegian violinist Ole Bull,[4] who was a family friend; Bull’s brother was married to Grieg’s aunt.[5] Bull recognized the 15-year-old boy’s talent and persuaded his parents to send him to the Leipzig Conservatory,[4] then directed by Ignaz Moscheles.[citation needed]

Grieg enrolled in the conservatory, concentrating on the piano, and enjoyed the many concerts and recitals given in Leipzig. He disliked the discipline of the conservatory course of study. An exception was the organ, which was mandatory for piano students. In the spring of 1860, he survived a life-threatening lung disease, pleurisy and tuberculosis. Throughout his life, Grieg’s health was impaired by a destroyed left lung and considerable deformity of his thoracic spine. He suffered from numerous respiratory infections, and ultimately developed combined lung and heart failure. Grieg was admitted many times to spas and sanatoria both in Norway and abroad. Several of his doctors became his personal friends.[6]

On 11 June 1867, Grieg married his first cousin, Nina Hagerup. The next year, their only child, Alexandra, was born. She died in 1869 from meningitis. In the summer of 1868, Grieg wrote his Piano Concerto in A minor while on holiday in Denmark. Edmund Neupert gave the concerto its premiere performance on 3 April 1869 in the Casino Theater in Copenhagen. Grieg himself was unable to be there due to conducting commitments in Christiania (as Oslo was then named). [7]

In 1868, Franz Liszt, who had not yet met Grieg, wrote a testimonial for him to the Norwegian Ministry of Education, which led to Grieg’s obtaining a travel grant. The two men met in Rome in 1870. On Grieg’s first visit, they went over Grieg’s Violin Sonata No. 1, which pleased Liszt greatly. On his second visit, in April, Grieg brought with him the manuscript of his Piano Concerto, which Liszt proceeded to sightread (including the orchestral arrangement). Liszt’s rendition greatly impressed his audience, although Grieg gently pointed out to him that he played the first movement too quickly. Liszt also gave Grieg some advice on orchestration, (for example, to give the melody of the second theme in the first movement to a solo trumpet).

In 1874–76, Grieg composed incidental music for the premiere of Henrik Ibsen‘s play Peer Gynt, at the request of the author.

Grieg had close ties with the Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra (Harmonien), and later became Music Director of the orchestra from 1880–1882. In 1888, Grieg met Tchaikovsky in Leipzig. Grieg was struck by the sadness in Tchaikovsky.[8] Tchaikovsky thought very highly of Grieg’s music, praising its beauty, originality and warmth.[9]

Read more and listen to more Grieg selections here

 

YouTube Music: Classic Wagner

YouTube Music: Classic Wagner

 

key Don’t ask for an easier life; ask to be a stronger person.

 

Sometimes we need to ignore the life and philosophy of the composer, and just enjoy the music.

Wagner Tannhauser Overture

 Lohengrin Overture

musicnotesWilhelm Richard Wagner; 22 May 1813 – 13 February 1883) was a German composer, theatre director, polemicist, and conductor primarily known for his operas (or, as some of his later works were later known, “music dramas”). His compositions, particularly those of his later period, are notable for their complex textures, rich harmonies and orchestration, and the elaborate use of leitmotifs—musical phrases associated with individual characters, places, ideas or plot elements. His advances in musical language, such as extreme chromaticism and quickly shifting tonal centres, greatly influenced the development of classical music; his Tristan und Isolde is sometimes described as marking the start of modern music.

Wagner inspired great devotion. For a long period, many composers were inclined to align themselves with or against Wagner’s music. Anton Bruckner and Hugo Wolf were greatly indebted to him, as were César Franck, Henri Duparc, Ernest Chausson, Jules Massenet, Richard Strauss, Alexander von Zemlinsky, Hans Pfitzner and numerous others.[194] Gustav Mahler was devoted to Wagner and his music; aged 24, he sought him out on his 1875 visit to Vienna,[195] became a renowned Wagner conductor,[196] and his compositions are seen by Richard Taruskin as extending Wagner’s “maximalization” of “the temporal and the sonorous” in music to the world of the symphony.[197] The harmonic revolutions of Claude Debussy and Arnold Schoenberg (both of whose oeuvres contain examples of tonal and atonal modernism) have often been traced back to Tristan and Parsifal.[198] The Italian form of operatic realism known as verismo owed much to the Wagnerian concept of musical form.[199]

Wagner made a major contribution to the principles and practice of conducting. His essay “About Conducting” (1869)[200] advanced Hector Berlioz‘s technique of conducting and claimed that conducting was a means by which a musical work could be re-interpreted, rather than simply a mechanism for achieving orchestral unison. He exemplified this approach in his own conducting, which was significantly more flexible than the disciplined approach of Mendelssohn; in his view this also justified practices that would today be frowned upon, such as the rewriting of scores.[201][n 16] Wilhelm Furtwängler felt that Wagner and Bülow, through their interpretative approach, inspired a whole new generation of conductors (including Furtwängler himself).[203]

Wagner’s concept of the use of leitmotifs and the integrated musical expression which they can enable has influenced many 20th and 21st century film scores. The critic Theodor Adorno has noted that the Wagnerian leitmotif “leads directly to cinema music where the sole function of the leitmotif is to announce heroes or situations so as to allow the audience to orient itself more easily”.[204] Amongst film scores citing Wagnerian themes are Francis Ford Coppola‘s Apocalypse Now, which features a version of the Ride of the Valkyries, Trevor Jones‘s soundtrack to John Boorman‘s film Excalibur,[205] and the 2011 films A Dangerous Method (dir. David Cronenberg) and Melancholia (dir. Lars von Trier).[206]

Amongst those claiming inspiration from Wagner’s music are the German rock band Rammstein,[207] and the electronic composer Klaus Schulze, whose 1975 album Timewind consists of two 30-minute tracks, Bayreuth Return and Wahnfried 1883. The Slovenian group Laibach created the 2009 suite VolksWagner, using material from Wagner’s operas.[208] Phil Spector‘s wall of sound recording technique was, it has been claimed, heavily influenced by Wagner.[209]

 

Comments from You Tube

Wagner was dead 6 six years before Hitler was even born and 37 years before the formation of the Nazi Party.

I lately saw a BBC-documentary search on “Stephen Fry on Wagner” it’s also on youtube, Stephen a Jew himself is one of the biggest fans of Wagner’s music since he was child, some of his family died in the camps, is he allowed to like Wagner’s music? The conclusion is, many dictators (Mao, Stalin etc.) misused great artists like Wagner and Wagner never knew Hitler.

 

More about Wagner from Wikipedia

More music on You tube

 

 

YouTube Music: Classic Prokofiev

Dinner Topics for Friday

 

peterwolf2Do you have a wolf at your door? Join Peter to defeat the wolf, and get stress relief from Classical Music.

 

From Wikipedia

Sergei Sergeyevich Prokofiev (pron.: /prəˈkɒfiɛv/; Russian: Сергей Сергеевич Прокофьев; 23 April 1891 – 5 March 1953) was a Russian composer, pianist and conductor who mastered numerous musical genres and is regarded as one of the major composers of the 20th century. His best-known works are the five piano concertos, nine completed piano sonatas and seven symphonies. Besides many other works, Prokofiev also composed family favourites, such as the March from The Love for Three Oranges, the suite Lieutenant Kijé, the ballet Romeo and Juliet – from which “Dance of the Knights” is taken – and Peter and the Wolf.

A graduate of the St Petersburg Conservatory, Prokofiev initially made his name as an iconoclastic composer-pianist, achieving notoriety with a series of ferociously dissonant and virtuosic works for his instrument and his first two piano concertos. Prokofiev’s first major success breaking out of the composer-pianist mould was with his purely orchestral Scythian Suite, compiled from music originally composed for a ballet commissioned by Sergei Diaghilev of the Ballets Russes; Diaghilev commissioned three further ballets from Prokofiev – Chout, Le pas d’acier and The Prodigal Son – which at the time of their original production were all highly successful. Prokofiev’s greatest interest, however, was opera, and he composed several works in that genre, including The Gambler and The Fiery Angel. Prokofiev’s one relative success in that genre during his lifetime was The Love for Three Oranges, composed for Chicago and subsequently performed over the following decade in Europe and Russia.

After the Revolution, Prokofiev left Russia with the official blessing of the Soviet minister Anatoly Lunacharsky, and he lived in the United States, then Germany, then Paris, during which time he married a Spanish singer, Carolina Codina, with whom he had two sons. Because of the increasing economic deprivation of Europe, Prokofiev returned to Russia in 1936. He enjoyed some success there – notably with Lieutenant Kijé, Peter and the Wolf, Romeo and Juliet, and perhaps above all with Alexander Nevsky. The Nazi invasion of the USSR spurred him to compose his most ambitious work, an operatic version of Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace. In 1948 Prokofiev was criticized for “anti-democratic formalism“, and with his income severely curtailed was forced to compose Stalinist works such as On Guard for Peace. However, he also enjoyed personal and artistic support from a new generation of Russian performers, notably Sviatoslav Richter and Mstislav Rostropovich and for the latter he composed his Symphony-Concerto.

Childhood compositions

Prokofiev was born in 1891[1] in Sontsovka (now Krasne in the Donetsk Oblast province of eastern Ukraine), an isolated rural estate in the Yekaterinoslav Governorate of the Russian Empire. His father, originally from Moscow, was an agricultural engineer, while his mother was described by Reinhold Glière as: “a tall woman with magnificent, intelligent eyes … who knew how to create around herself a warm, natural atmosphere.” Having lost two daughters she devoted her life to music and spent two months a year in Moscow or St. Petersburg taking piano lessons.[2] Sergei Prokofiev was inspired by hearing his mother practising the piano in the evenings – mostly works by Chopin and Beethoven – and composed his first piano composition at the age of five, an ‘Indian Gallop’, which was written down by his mother: this was in the Lydian mode (a major scale with a raised 4th scale degree) as the young Prokofiev felt ‘reluctance to tackle the black notes’.[3] By seven, he had also learned to play chess.[4] Much like music, chess would remain a passion, and he became acquainted with world chess champions José Raúl Capablanca, whom he beat in a simultaneous exhibition match in 1914, and Mikhail Botvinnik.[5] At the age of nine he was composing his first opera, The Giant,[6] as well as an overture and various other pieces.

Read More

 

Stress Relief, Jesus, and Peaceful Music

Dinner Topics for Friday

Stress Relief, Jesus, and Peaceful Music

 

YouTube Music: Solace, by Jordan

 

Where Can I Turn for Peace?

Emma Lou Thayne

 

jesuslambmedWhere can I turn for peace? Where is my solace

When other sources cease to make me whole?

When with a wounded heart, anger, or malice,

I draw myself apart, searching my soul?

 

Where, when my aching grows, where, when I languish,

Where, in my need to know, where can I run?

Where is the quiet hand to calm my anguish?

Who, who can understand? He, only One.

 

He answers privately, reaches my reaching

In my Gethsemane, Savior and Friend.

Gentle the peace he finds for my beseeching.

Constant he is and kind, love without end.

YouTube Music for the Soul: Classic Handel

Dinner Topics for Friday

View and Listen to Handel’s Messiah

Book Review

George Friedrich Handel loved to play the harpsichord, but his father didn’t approve, so Handel practiced in secret.

Handel’s music was well-known to composers including Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven.

keyTo Beethoven he was “the master of us all… the greatest composer that ever lived. I would uncover my head and kneel before his tomb”.[61] Beethoven emphasized above all the simplicity and popular appeal of Handel’s music when he said, “Go to him to learn how to achieve great effects, by such simple means”.

American Culture Dinner Talk Journal Article: Handel and the Gift of Messiah

Book Review:

Great Quotes

“I wish to breathe my last word on Good Friday, in hopes of meeting mine good God and sweet Lord and Savior on the day of His resurrection.”
“I did think I did see all heaven before me, and the great God Himself sitting upon His throne.”
~George Frederic Handel to his manservant Peter LeBlonde


Hallelujah!

A novel by J. Scott Featherstone
The Story of the coming forth of Handel’s Messiah

This is the remarkable story of one of the greatest events in musical history, the creation of George Frederic Handel’s masterpiece, Messiah.  Composed in just twenty-four days, Handel’s “Grand Oratorio which rendered him immortal” was birthed in the darkest and most desperate hours of his life. His health was failing. Critics ridiculed him. Creditors hounded him. Enemies persecuted him. Pride had nearly destroyed him. Yet, out of Handel’s night emerged the dawn of Messiah.

Anyone who has thrilled at hearing the Hallelujah Chorus will feel “profound attachment” to Handel’s story of hope and redemption as timeless and poignant as the music itself.

From far away, as if wending its way toward him in the night breeze, something began to develop in Handel’s mind. It was so faint and distant that he could not recognize it but only anticipate its arrival. He waited in the stillness for the shape to take the form of sound. He imagined he could see the sound coming toward him, a veiled line of blue streaming toward him through an ocean of black.

Then softly, like a voice from a distant source it came to him-a single violin of transcendent purity, echoing across this mind like music ringing down the valleys of Halle in the cool of the night. So distinct and clear was the melody that he could see the notes on paper as he heard them.

~From Hallelujah!

Gethsemane2This book is written as a type of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. That is, it tells of people who are thrown into debtor’s prison. Handel, having been in serious debt himself, had compassion for these people.  When he created The Messiah, he would not perform it for money. He dedicated it to the Children’s Foundling Hospital in Halle, Germany, his home town. For years it was performed by the children’s choir there. Every year, when it was performed, Handel would use donations to liberate people from debtor’s prison.  What a fitting event to be connected to the performance of the glorious Messiah! For over a hundred years after Handel’s death the pages of music for the great oratorio languished in oblivion. Then, on a cold January day in 1896, Dr. Davan Whetton, seeking funds for The Foundling Hospital of which he was principal and organist, rediscovered Handel’s Messiah in a tiny, unknown room behind the pulpit.  Author Featherstone portrays the moving story of Handel’s Messiah in a very powerful way. The book is now out of print; you may find a used one online. It is a worthwhile, unforgettable read.

Life of George Handel

By Spencer J. Condie

George Frideric Handel, born February 23, 1685

George Frideric Handel seemed to have been born a musician. As a young lad in Germany, he became proficient on both the violin and the organ. After composing his first opera in Germany, he moved to Italy, the operatic center of the world, to try his hand at musical composition in the Italian style. There he achieved some success in composing operas and chamber music.

In 1711, at age 26, Handel decided to move to England, where his operas and oratorios initially gained acceptance. By the late 1730s, however, British audiences had become less enthusiastic about operas sung in German or Italian; instead, they favored comedic performances such as The Beggar’s Opera. Thus, for several years Handel struggled to keep the wolves—his creditors—away from the door.

In 1737, after pushing himself to his physical limits by composing four operas within 12 months, the 52-year-old composer suffered a stroke, leaving his right arm temporarily paralyzed. A doctor told Handel’s faithful secretary: “We may save the man—but the musician is lost forever. It seems to me that his brain has been permanently injured.”1

The composer defied the diagnosis. Over time his body responded to treatment in the thermal springs at Aix-la-Chapelle (Aachen, Germany), and he recovered his physical strength. After testing his ability to play the organ at a nearby cathedral, he jubilantly proclaimed, “I have come back from Hades.”2

When he returned to London and resumed composing operas, his work was not well received, and creditors began to hound him again. In the depths of despondency, he began to wonder, “Why did God permit my resurrection, only to allow my fellow-men to bury me again?”3In April 1741 Handel held what he assumed would be a farewell concert. His creativity was spent. A biographer wrote: “There was nothing to begin or to finish. Handel was faced with emptiness.”4

Late one August afternoon that same year, Handel returned from a long and tiring walk to find that a poet and previous collaborator, Charles Jennens, had left him a manuscript. This libretto quoted liberally from the scriptures, particularly the words of Isaiah, foretelling the birth of Jesus Christ and describing His ministry, Crucifixion, and Resurrection. The work was to be an oratorio. Given his previous failures, Handel was apprehensive as he began to read through the text.

“Comfort Ye,” the first words of the manuscript, seemed to leap from the page. They dissipated dark clouds that had been pressing upon Handel for so long. His depression waned and his emotions warmed from interest to excitement as he continued to read of angelic proclamations of the Savior’s birth and of Isaiah’s prophecies of the Messiah, who would come to earth to be born as other mortal infants. A familiar melody Handel had composed earlier flooded into his mind as he read “For unto Us a Child Is Born.” The notes distilled upon his mind faster than he could put pencil to paper as he captured the image of the loving Good Shepherd in the aria titled “He Shall Feed His Flock.” Then came the overpowering exultation reflected in the “Hallelujah Chorus,” followed by the soft, supernal testimony of “I Know That My Redeemer Liveth.” The work came to its majestic conclusion with “Worthy Is the Lamb.”

musicnotesAfter all the music he had composed throughout his lifetime, Handel would eventually be known worldwide for this singular work, Messiah, largely composed in just three weeks during the late summer of 1741. Upon completing his composition, he humbly acknowledged, “God has visited me.”5Those who feel the touch of the Holy Spirit as they experience the overpowering testimony of Handel’s Messiah would agree.

To the sponsors of the first performance of the oratorio, Handel stipulated that profits from this and all future performances of Messiah “be donated to prisoners, orphans, and the sick. I have myself been a very sick man, and am now cured,” he said. “I was a prisoner, and have been set free.”6

Following the first London performance of Messiah, a patron congratulated Handel on the excellent “entertainment.”

“My lord, I should be sorry if I only entertained them,” Handel humbly replied. “I wish to make them better.”7

He had finally been relieved of his restless quest for fame, fortune, and public praise—but only after composing his crowning work for an audience that included those not of this earth. The things that mattered most were no longer at the mercy of the things that mattered least. Handel, the restless composer, was now at rest.

Lessons from Handel’s Life

HaendelWhat lessons may we learn from the life of George Frideric Handel and the composition of a piece of music that has become a spiritual landmark?

  1. We must develop confidence in our abilities and learn to live with criticism of our work. In the words of poet Rudyard Kipling: “Trust yourself when all men doubt you, but make allowance for their doubting too.”8
  2. Quantity is no substitute for quality and variety. Handel’s earlier operas have largely been forgotten. Their predictable, formulaic templates simply failed to inspire; each opera sounded much like the others he had composed.
  3. When we act on inspiration, we are doing the work of heaven. We cannot force the Spirit, but when inspiration and revelation come, we must listen and act upon the promptings. The Lord has promised that “the power of my Spirit quickeneth all things” (D&C 33:16).
  4. We must acknowledge our source of inspiration and revelation. We are only instruments in the work we do that blesses others. We must realize, as Handel did when he deflected the honor given upon his achievement, that “God has visited [us].”
  5. We must never underestimate the power of the word. There is a power in the word of God that far surpasses the narratives of this world’s most gifted writers (see Alma 31:5).
  6. Real spiritual meaning in a work is conveyed by the witness of the Holy Ghost. “When [an individual speaks or sings] by the power of the Holy Ghost the power of the Holy Ghost carrieth it unto the hearts of the children of men” (2 Nephi 33:1).
  7. Power is in God and His works, not in our words. Speaking of the professors of religion of the day, the Savior told Joseph Smith, “They draw near to me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me, … having a form of godliness, but they deny the power thereof” (Joseph Smith—History 1:19). Handel had composed other oratorios and operas with biblical texts, but the form of his music did not match the power of the scriptures—Isaiah’s powerful prophecies of the Savior’s birth and ministry or the fulfillment of those prophecies as found in Revelation and the Gospels of Luke and John. In Handel’s Messiah, we find both the form of godliness and the power thereof. In Messiah, lips and hearts are drawn nearer to heaven.

Each of us, like George Frideric Handel, is engaged in a creative spiritual enterprise in this life. Both the physical fostering of mortal life and the righteous living of our days on earth are spiritual achievements. I pray that we may be sensitive to inspiration from on high, that we may be inspired in such a way that the fruits of our labors are inspiring to others. As we seek to rescue others, may we not be bound by time-tested templates and self-imposed perceptions that restrict our spiritual creativity and lock out revelation.

In her epic poem, Aurora Leigh, Elizabeth Barrett Browning expressed the eloquent thought:

Earth’s crammed with heaven,

And every common bush afire with God;

But only he who sees takes off his shoes;

The rest sit round it and pluck blackberries. 9

May each of us unlatch our shoes and cram our labors with the essence of heaven, and may none of us be found plucking blackberries when a much grander, loftier work needs to be done.

And at the end of our divinely ordained days, may we be able to acknowledge, with Handel, that God has visited us in our labors.

More about George Handel

 

YouTube Music: Classic Mendelssohn

Dinner Topics for Friday

key  It’s the little moments that make life big.

I love Mendelssohn music. It is like the balm of Gilead. ~C.D.

Song without Words

Itzhak Perlman Mendelssohn Violin Concerto andante

Felix Mendelssohn

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

To the noble artist who, surrounded by the Baal-worship of false art, has been able, like a second Elijah, through genius and study, to remain true to the service of true art. ~Prince Albert, 1847    .[121] 

MendelssohnBartholdyJakob Ludwig Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy born, and generally known in English-speaking countries, as Felix Mendelssohn[n 1] (3 February 1809 – 4 November 1847) was a German composer, pianist, organist and conductor of the early Romantic period.

A grandson of the philosopher Moses Mendelssohn, Felix Mendelssohn was born into a prominent Jewish family, although initially he was raised without religion and was later baptised as a Lutheran Christian. Mendelssohn was recognised early as a musical prodigy, but his parents were cautious and did not seek to capitalise on his talent.

Early success in Germany, where he also revived interest in the music of Johann Sebastian Bach, was followed by travel throughout Europe. Mendelssohn was particularly well received in Britain as a composer, conductor and soloist, and his ten visits there – during which many of his major works were premiered – form an important part of his adult career. His essentially conservative musical tastes, however, set him apart from many of his more adventurous musical contemporaries such as Franz Liszt, Richard Wagner and Hector Berlioz. The Leipzig Conservatoire (now the University of Music and Theatre Leipzig), which he founded, became a bastion of this anti-radical outlook.

Mendelssohn’s work includes symphonies, concerti, oratorios, piano music and chamber music. His most-performed works include his Overture and incidental music for A Midsummer Night’s Dream, the Italian Symphony, the Scottish Symphony, the overture The Hebrides, his Violin Concerto, and his String Octet. After a long period of relative denigration due to changing musical tastes and anti-Semitism in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, his creative originality has now been recognised and re-evaluated. He is now among the most popular composers of the Romantic era.

Childhood

Felix Mendelssohn was born on 3 February 1809, in Hamburg, at the time an independent city-state,[n 2] in the same house where, a year later, the dedicatee and first performer of his Violin Concerto, Ferdinand David, was to be born. Mendelssohn’s father was the banker Abraham Mendelssohn, the son of the German Jewish philosopher Moses Mendelssohn. His mother was Lea Salomon, a member of the Itzig family and a sister of Jakob Salomon Bartholdy.[1] Mendelssohn was the second of four children; his older sister Fanny also displayed exceptional and precocious musical talent.

The family moved to Berlin in 1811, leaving Hamburg in disguise fearing French revenge for the Mendelssohn bank‘s role in breaking Napoleon‘s Continental System blockade.[2] Abraham and Lea Mendelssohn sought to give their children – Fanny, Felix, Paul and Rebecka – the best education possible. Fanny became a well-known pianist and amateur composer; originally Abraham had thought that she, rather than Felix, would be the more musical. However, at that time, it was not considered proper, by either Abraham or Felix, for a woman to have a career in music, so Fanny remained an active, but non-professional musician. Abraham was also disinclined to allow Felix to follow a musical career until it became clear that he intended seriously to dedicate himself to it.[3]

Mendelssohn grew up in an intellectual environment. Frequent visitors to the salon organised by his parents at the family’s home in Berlin included artists, musicians and scientists, amongst them Wilhelm and Alexander von Humboldt, and the mathematician Gustav Dirichlet (whom Mendelssohn’s sister Rebecka would later marry).[4] Sarah Rothenburg wrote of the household that “Europe came to their living room”.[5]

Felix’s surname

Abraham Mendelssohn renounced the Jewish religion; he and his wife deliberately decided not to have Felix circumcised, in contravention of the Jewish tradition.[6] Felix and his siblings were first brought up without religious education, and were baptised as Lutherans in 1816, at which time Felix took the additional names Jakob Ludwig. Abraham and his wife Lea were baptised in 1822, formally adopting the surname Mendelssohn Bartholdy (which they had used since 1812) for themselves and their children.[7] The name Bartholdy was added at the suggestion of Lea’s brother, Jakob Salomon Bartholdy, who had inherited a property of this name in Luisenstadt and adopted it as his own surname.[8] Abraham later explained this decision in a letter to Felix as a means of showing a decisive break with the traditions of his father Moses: “There can no more be a Christian Mendelssohn than there can be a Jewish Confucius“.[9] On embarking on his musical career, Felix did not entirely drop the name Mendelssohn as Abraham requested, but in deference to his father signed his letters and had his visiting cards printed using the form ‘Mendelssohn Bartholdy’.[10] In 1829, his sister Fanny wrote to him of “Bartholdy […] this name that we all dislike”.[11]

Meeting Goethe and conducting Bach

In 1821 Zelter introduced Mendelssohn to his friend and correspondent, the elderly Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, who was greatly impressed by the child, leading to perhaps the earliest confirmed comparison with Mozart in the following conversation between Goethe and Zelter:

“Musical prodigies … are probably no longer so rare; but what this little man can do in extemporizing and playing at sight borders the miraculous, and I could not have believed it possible at so early an age.” “And yet you heard Mozart in his seventh year at Frankfurt?” said Zelter. “Yes”, answered Goethe, ” … but what your pupil already accomplishes, bears the same relation to the Mozart of that time that the cultivated talk of a grown-up person bears to the prattle of a child.”[26]

water color by Mendelssohn

water color of Lucerne by Mendelssohn

Mendelssohn was a fine and enthusiastic artist in pencil and watercolour, a skill which he used throughout his life for his own amusement and that of his friends.[57][58] His enormous correspondence shows that he could also be a witty writer in German and English – sometimes accompanied by humorous sketches and cartoons in the text.

Religion

Although Mendelssohn was a conforming (if not over-zealous) Lutheran by confession,[n 3] he was both conscious and proud of his Jewish ancestry and notably of his connection with his grandfather Moses Mendelssohn. He was the prime mover in proposing to the publisher Heinrich Brockhaus a complete edition of Moses’s works, which continued with the support of his uncle Joseph Mendelssohn.[59] Mendelssohn was notably reluctant, either in his letters or conversation, to comment on his innermost beliefs; his friend Devrient wrote that “[his] deep convictions were never uttered in intercourse with the world; only in rare and intimate moments did they ever appear, and then only in the slightest and most humorous allusions”.[60] Thus for example in a letter to his sister Rebecka, Mendelssohn rebukes her complaint about an unpleasant relative: “What do you mean by saying you are not hostile to Jews? I hope this was a joke […] It is really sweet of you that you do not despise your family, isn’t it?”[61]. Some modern scholars have devoted considerable energy to demonstrate that Mendelssohn was either deeply sympathetic to his Jewishness or sincere to his Lutheran beliefs (though there is in fact no reason to suppose these attitudes to be incompatible).[n 4]

Marriage and children

Mendelssohn married Cécile Charlotte Sophie Jeanrenaud (10 October 1817 – 25 September 1853), the daughter of a French Protestant clergyman, on 28 March 1837.[67] The couple had five children: Carl, Marie, Paul, Lilli and Felix. The second youngest child, Felix August, contracted measles in 1844 and was left with his health impaired; he died in 1851.[68] The eldest, Carl Mendelssohn Bartholdy (7 February 1838 – 23 February 1897), became a distinguished historian, and professor of history at Heidelberg and Freiburg universities, dying in 1897 in a psychiatric institution in Freiburg.[69] Paul Mendelssohn Bartholdy (1841–1880) was a noted chemist and pioneered the manufacture of aniline dye. Marie married Victor Benecke and lived in London. Lili married Adolph Wach, later Professor of Law at Leipzig University.[70] The family papers inherited by Marie and Lili’s children form the basis of the extensive collection of Mendelssohn manuscripts, including the so-called ‘Green Books’ of his correspondence, now in the Bodleian Library at Oxford University.[71]

Jenny Lind

In general Mendelssohn’s personal life seems to have been fairly conventional compared to his contemporaries Wagner, Berlioz, and Schumann – except for his relationship with Swedish soprano Jenny Lind, whom he met in October 1844. An affidavit from Lind’s husband, Otto Goldschmidt, which is currently held in the archive of the Mendelssohn Scholarship Foundation at the Royal Academy of Music in London, reportedly describes Mendelssohn’s 1847 written request for Lind, who was then not married, to elope with him to America. The affidavit, though unsealed, is currently unreleased by the Mendelssohn Scholarship Foundation, despite requests to make it public.[73][n 5]

Mendelssohn met and worked with Lind many times, and started an opera, Lorelei, for her, based on the legend of the Lorelei Rhine maidens; the opera was unfinished at his death. He is said to have included a high F-sharp in his oratorio Elijah (“Hear Ye Israel”) with Lind’s voice in mind,[75] although she did not sing this part until after his death, at a concert in December 1848.[76] In 1847 Mendelssohn attended a London performance of Meyerbeer’s Robert le diable – an opera which musically he despised – in order to hear Lind’s British debut, in the role of Alice. The music critic Henry Chorley, who was with him, wrote “I see as I write the smile with which Mendelssohn, whose enjoyment of Mdlle. Lind’s talent was unlimited, turned round and looked at me, as if a load of anxiety had been taken off his mind. His attachment to Mlle. Lind’s genius as a singer was unbounded, as was his desire for her success”.[77]

Upon Mendelssohn’s death Lind wrote, “[He was] the only person who brought fulfillment to my spirit, and almost as soon as I found him I lost him again”. In 1869 Lind erected a plaque in Mendelssohn’s memory at his birthplace in Hamburg; in 1849 she established the Mendelssohn Scholarship Foundation, which makes an award to a British resident young composer every two years in Mendelssohn’s memory.[73] The first winner of the scholarship was Arthur Sullivan, then aged 14, in 1856.

Symphonies

The numbering of Mendelssohn’s mature symphonies is approximately in order of publishing, rather than of composition. The order of actual composition is: 1, 5, 4, 2, 3. Because he worked on it for over a decade, the placement of No. 3 in this sequence is problematic; Mendelssohn started sketches for it soon after starting No. 5, but completed it following both Nos. 5 and 4.

The Symphony No. 1 in C minor for full-scale orchestra was written in 1824, when Mendelssohn was aged 15. This work is experimental, showing the influences of Beethoven and Carl Maria von Weber.[81] Mendelssohn conducted this symphony on his first visit to London in 1829, with the orchestra of the Royal Philharmonic Society. For the third movement he substituted an orchestration of the Scherzo from his Octet. In this form the piece was a success, and laid the foundations of his British reputation.[82]

During 1829 and 1830 Mendelssohn wrote his Symphony No. 5, known as the Reformation. It celebrated the 300th anniversary of the Lutheran Church. Mendelssohn remained dissatisfied with the work and did not allow publication of the score.[83]

The Scottish Symphony (Symphony No. 3 in A minor) was written and revised intermittently between 1829 (when Mendelssohn noted down the opening theme during a visit to Holyrood Palace)[84] and 1842, when it was given its premiere in Leipzig, the last of his symphonies to be performed in public. This piece evokes Scotland’s atmosphere in the ethos of Romanticism, but does not employ any identified Scottish folk melodies.[85]

Mendelssohn’s travels in Italy inspired him to write the Symphony No. 4 in A major, known as the Italian Symphony. Mendelssohn conducted the premiere in 1833, but he did not allow this score to be published during his lifetime as he continually sought to rewrite it.[86]

Mendelssohn wrote the choral Symphony No. 2 in B-flat major, entitled Lobgesang (Hymn of Praise), to mark the celebrations in Leipzig of the 400th anniversary of the invention of the printing press; the first performance took place on 25 June 1840.[87]

Concertos

The Violin Concerto in E minor, Op. 64 (1844), written for Ferdinand David, has become one of the most popular of all of Mendelssohn’s compositions. David, who had worked closely with Mendelssohn during the piece’s preparation, gave the premiere of the concerto on his Guarneri violin.[91]

The hymn tune Mendelssohn – an adaptation by William Hayman Cummings of a melody from Mendelssohn’s cantata Festgesang (Festive Hymn) – is the standard tune for Charles Wesley‘s popular hymn Hark! The Herald Angels Sing. This extract from an originally secular 1840s composition, which Mendelssohn felt unsuited to sacred music,[87] is ubiquitous at Christmas.

Reputation and legacy

Criticism of Mendelssohn for his very ability – which could be characterised negatively as facility – was taken to further lengths by Richard Wagner. Mendelssohn’s success, his popularity and his Jewish origins irked Wagner sufficiently to damn Mendelssohn with faint praise, three years after his death, in an anti-Jewish pamphlet Das Judenthum in der Musik:

“[Mendelssohn] has shown us that a Jew may have the amplest store of specific talents, may own the finest and most varied culture, the highest and tenderest sense of honour – yet without all these pre-eminences helping him, were it but one single time, to call forth in us that deep, that heart-searching effect which we await from art […] The washiness and the whimsicality of our present musical style has been […] pushed to its utmost pitch by Mendelssohn’s endeavour to speak out a vague, an almost nugatory Content as interestingly and spiritedly as possible.”[115]

This was the start of a movement to downgrade Mendelssohn’s status as a composer which lasted almost a century, the echoes of which still survive today in critiques of Mendelssohn’s supposed mediocrity.[n 6] Even the comment of Friedrich Nietzsche that Mendelssohn was “a lovely interlude” in German music (i.e. biding time between Beethoven and Wagner)[116] is condescending. In the 20th century the Nazi regime and its Reichsmusikkammer cited Mendelssohn’s Jewish origin in banning performance and publication of his works, even asking Nazi-approved composers to rewrite incidental music for A Midsummer Night’s Dream. (Carl Orff obliged.)[117] Under the Nazis, ‘Mendelssohn was presented as a dangerous “accident” of music history, who played a decisive role in rendering German music in the 19th century “degenerate” .’[118] The German Mendelssohn Scholarship for students at the Leipzig Conservatoire was discontinued in 1934 (and not revived until 1963). The monument dedicated to Mendelssohn erected in Leipzig in 1892 was removed by the Nazis in 1936. A replacement was erected in 2008.[119]

Mendelssohn’s reputation in England remained high throughout the 19th century. Prince Albert inscribed (in German), a libretto for the oratorio Elijah in 1847:

To the noble artist who, surrounded by the Baal-worship of false art, has been able, like a second Elijah, through genius and study, to remain true to the service of true art.[121]

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