‘An old man young or a young man old?’: On Goethe’s Friendship with Felix Mendelssohn


Byrne Bodley, Lorraine (2010) ‘An old man young or a young man old?’: On Goethe’s Friendship with Felix Mendelssohn. In: Musicologie sans frontières / Muzikologija bez granice / Musicology without Frontiers: Svecani zbornik za Stanislava Tuksara / Essays in Honour of Stanislav Tuksar. Croatian Musicological Society, Zagreb. ISBN 978-953-6090-44-0

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Abstract

We have recently celebrated the 200th anniversary of the birth of Felix Mendelssohn at no.14 Grosse Michaelistrasse in Hamburg. The story of his birth has a slightly enigmatic feel to it: This has something to do with the mystery that hangs over these early years in Hamburg, with the family’s omission of their son’s birth on the Jewish birth register, with the stealth of such privacy, and with the hovering possibility of a child prodigy about to emerge. Of course, the fascination of these years was every bit as potent for Mendelssohn’s contemporaries, for it did not escape their notice that the boy’s early years were vaguely foreshadowed in accounts of Mozart’s boyhood years. Schumann hailed Mendelssohn as the Mozart of the 19th century and considered him an »unforgettable« composer. Yet somehow over the past two centuries he has become sidelined, and overshadowed by Mozart in the popular imagination. Although Mendelssohn’s early death at the age of 38 made sensational news and resulted in the composer’s becoming a legendary figure, his premature end was seen to be implicit in his prodigious talent all along: his early intellectual and musical maturity were prophetic of his fate. In early reception of his work, its daring qualities and the transgressions that it encompassed were the first things to be emphasized in the aftermath of his death. Yet its ironies and complications were soon neglected: highlighted instead were Wagner’s image of the composer and those musical works of his that were seen to conform to Victorian expectations. The image of a conservative lightweight soon replaced that of a prodigious talent.

Item Type: Book Section
Keywords: Goethe’s Friendship; Felix Mendelssohn;
Academic Unit: Faculty of Arts,Celtic Studies and Philosophy > Music
Item ID: 7455
Depositing User: Dr. Lorraine Byrne Bodley
Date Deposited: 19 Sep 2016 11:22
Publisher: Croatian Musicological Society
Refereed: Yes
URI:

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