Felix Mendelssohn and His Times

Felix Mendelssohn and His Times

Felix Mendelssohn and His Times

Felix Mendelssohn and His Times

Excerpt

His name was Felix--and giving him this name was perhaps the only way his parents ever wronged him. Had they known he was to be a creative person, they would never have dared to call him "Felix"-- "happy". Up to the time of Mendelssohn no genius could ever have pretended to such a name. Was Beethoven happy, when the world turned dumb as far as he was concerned, when the gods avenged themselves upon him by taking away his hearing? Was Schumann happy, who on the contrary heard too much, who fled the clamour of his inner voices until he could escape them no longer, and threw himself into the Rhine? Schubert, unknown and heavily burdened--was he happy? Or was Mozart, who died in poverty at the age of thirty-five? Hugo Wolf, who fell a prey to madness? Weber, whose life was exhausted by consumption before he reached forty? Chopin, who also died young of the same disease?

None of these great musicians was a happy man. Only one was: Mendelssohn. His life was sheltered, carefully guarded. He enjoyed fame, the whirl and flattery of artistic tours of a kind normally reserved for virtuosi, not composers. Other composers had to beg their way back and forth to Paris and London. Not he. For him ships were waiting, railroad trains, letters of recommendation. He had money that he had not had to earn, money that was his as the heir of a family fortune. Here was a genius who was nevertheless a rich man. Of course he knew life's small vexations as we all know them. He had his struggles with orchestras and impresarios. There was the dissatisfaction with himself that affects all men of great gifts. There was the fatigue of talent. But he was not oppressed by the terrible burdens that other composers had to bear, the cruel daily struggle for food and shelter. In this respect he was blessed; from boyhood on he could devote himself entirely to his art. And even his death was kind and smiling, although it came too early. At the age of thirtyeight, scarcely ravaged by life, almost without visible signs of illness, he passed away, to be mourned by an amazed world.

Felix, then? Felicissimus! He did not even have to breast that misunderstanding, that failure to win recognition, which embittered the lives of other composers. When Chopin was asked, in Paris, about Robert Schumann's music, he had the effrontery to say: "That is no music. . . ."

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.