Composer Kenneth Frazelle promises me a phone conversation later today. I'll report back tomorrow.
In listening to and researching the Mendelssohn Symphony, I came across some delightful references to Queen Victoria and Prince Albert's fascnianton with this young German melodist.
Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847) became a star at 17 with his overture to A Midsummer Night's Dream. His Songs Without Words were all the rage. The early string symphonies were considered decorative and good fun. Mendelssohn's four Symphonies lack the drama and passion of Beethoven or Schumann, but they have a grace and melodic perfection all their own.
So here we have Mendelssohn: handsome, German and purportedly in love with Scotland. How could Victoria resist? She didn't. During one of his many trips to Britain, the composer was invited to Buckingham Palace. Many an eyebrow raised as court, since Mendelssohn was Jewish and a composer. Not exactly respectable, since composers were known to run with fast women and have a predilection for drink
Mendelssohn came back a month later. The queen decided to sing for the composer "She will sing you something by Gluck. Meanwhile, . the Princess of Gotha had come in and we all proceeded through the various rooms and corridors to the Queen's boudoir. There stood a piano and two enormous bird cages. The Duchess of Kent came in, and while they were all talking I rummaged through the music and found two songs of my own, which I asked her to sing in place of the Gluck.":
Mendelssohn and Queen Victoria reckoned without on of the Queen's favored pets:
"Just as we were about to begin, the Queen said 'But first we must get rid of the parrot, or he will scream louder than I can sing! Prince Albert rang the bell and the Prince of Gotha said 'I will take him out,'. I came forward and said "Please allow me?' and lifted up the big cage and carried it to the astonished servants. "
Mendelssohn grit his teeth when Victoria chose to sing "Schoner und schoner schmuckt dich". Mendelssohn could overlook the Queen singing D instead of D sharp but he pouted when admitting that this song was written not by himself but by another Mendelssohn, his sister Fanny.
"I gave him a little ring in remembrance" wrote the Queen. They met twice more, in 1844 and 1847. Albert heard the composer conduct Elijah in London and sent a signed copy of the program with a windy but admiring inscription. The one favor Mendelssohn asked, to visit the Royal children, further endeared him to the couple.
Felix Mendelssohn died on November 4, 1847. The Queen was "horrified, astounded and distressed" at this news. "We liked and esteemed the excellent man & looked up to & amp; esteemed the wonderful genius and the great mind, which I feel were too much for the frail and delicate body."