Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy

Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy


Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy (1809–1847)

August Weger, steel engraving, 19th c., 250 x 175.

Collection: Muzeum Fryderyka Chopina, Warsaw [M/718].


Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy—German composer and conductor. Chopin remembered him from Berlin, in 1828. In Paris, they met in 1832. Mendelssohn was a great admirer of Chopin’s pianistic talent and style of playing. He tried to dissuade him from taking lessons from Kalkbrenner, considering that Chopin played better than the Parisian teacher. In May 1834, they met in Aachen, where—at the urging of Ferdinand Hiller—Chopin travelled for celebrations organised as a tribute to Handel. From there, Chopin, Hiller and Mendelssohn went to Düsseldorf, as Mendelssohn wrote in a letter to his mother (Düsseldorf, 23 May 1834): ‘The next morning, the three of us were at the piano, which afforded me great pleasure. They have both developed their skills even further, and as a pianist Chopin is now one of the greatest of all – doing things as original as Paganini does on the violin, and bringing about miracles that one would never have believed possible. Hiller too is a remarkable player, vigorous with a touch of coquetry. Both, however, labour somewhat under the Parisian tendency of overdoing passion and despair, and too often lose sight of calm, discretion and the purely musical; I on the other hand perhaps do this too little – and so we all three supplemented and, I believe, learned from each other, with myself acting a little bit the part of schoolmaster, and they the mirliflores or incroyables [Eigeldinger 1986, p. 267].

On 6 October 1835, after a meeting with Chopin (in Leipzig), Mendelssohn wrote to his sister, Fanny (a talented pianist who composed numerous works, some together with her brother): ‘That very day, when I took the Hensels to visit Delitzsch, Chopin was there; he did not wish to stay longer than one day, and so we spent it together, without parting, and played music. I do not conceal from you, dear Fanny, that I recently reached the conclusion that you are not fair enough towards him in your judgments; perhaps when you heard him, he was not in the right mood for playing, as doubtless often happens to him, yet I was once again amazed by his playing, and I am convinced that were you and father to hear a few of his better works, as he played them to me, you would say the same. His piano playing has something about it that is so uniquely his, and at the same time so masterful, that one may confidently call him an utterly perfect virtuoso; and since all perfection is pleasant to me and fills me with joy, this day was for me pleasant in the highest degree, although so different from those which I had previously spent with you!

[…] He also has an exquisite new nocturne, from which I remembered a number of things […]. So we spent the day in such good spirits and he promised me with the utmost seriousness that he would return here over the winter, if I compose a new symphony, and I’ll have it played in his honour; we swore this to one another before three witnesses, and we shall see if both keep our word’ [Czartkowski and Jeżewska, pp. 250–251].