By upbringing, family connections, and education, Felix Mendelssohn was ideally positioned to contribute to the historical legacies of the German people, who in the aftermath of the Napoleonic Wars discovered that they were a nation with a distinct culture. The number of cultural icons of German nationalism that Mendelssohn “discovered,” promoted, or was asked to promote (by way of commissions) in his compositions is striking: Gutenberg and the invention of the printing press, Dürer and Nuremberg, Luther and the Augsburg Confession as the manifesto of Protestantism, Bach and the St. Matthew Passion, Beethoven and his claims to universal brotherhood. The essays in this volume investigate from a variety of perspectives Mendelssohn’s relationship to the music of the past, including the significance of Bach’s music for the Mendelssohn family, the homages to Bach in Mendelssohn’s organ compositions, the influence of Beethoven in the Reformation Symphony, and Mendelssohn’s reception and use of Handel’s oratorios. Together, the essays shed light on the construction of legacies that, in some cases, served to assert German cultural supremacy only two decades after the composer’s death in 1847. Contributors: Celia Applegate, John Michael Cooper, Hans Davidsson, Wm. A. Little, Peter Mercer-Taylor, Siegwart Reichwald, Glenn Stanley, Russell Stinson, Benedict Taylor, Nicholas Thistlethwaite, Jürgen Thym, R. Larry Todd, Christoph Wolff Jürgen Thym is professor emeritus of musicology at the Eastman School of Music and editor of Of Poetry and Song: Approaches to the Nineteenth-Century Lied (University of Rochester Press, 2010).
(The chapters) illuminate and expand ideas of Mendelssohn’s place as a composer, performer, and ultimately caretaker of musical history. (Davidsson’s chapter,) a substantial look at Opus 65 in historical context, performance, and registrations (is) alone worth the price of the volume. This book displays the important of (Mendelssohn’s) legacy in a new light. It should be on every musician’s shelf. Highly recommended. JOURNAL OF THE ASSOCIATION OF ANGLICAN MUSICIANS (Erik W. Goldstrom) An excellent compilation of (previously unpublished) essays on Mendelssohn, where his life and work are explored as well as his role in the recovery and preservation of musical traditions of the past from a musicological point of view. Perhaps the most remarkable feature of the work is its possible practical application, which is very evident in the extensive chapter (by Hans Davidsson) on the organ. Interesting connections are created between chapters, with some anticipating topics that are later developed further. DOCE NOTAS Mendelssohn, the Organ, and the Music of the Past brings together papers by a group of centrally important scholars. The book offers a diverse spread of topics covering background history, biography, and repertoire, employing a nice variety of approaches. These essays open up new areas for further work. –Douglass Seaton, Warren D. Allen Professor of Music, Florida State University
About the Author
Jürgen Thym is Professor Emeritus of Musicology at the Eastman School of Music and editor of Of Poetry and Song: Approaches to the Nineteenth-Century Lied (University of Rochester Press, 2010).