MENDELSSOHN-BARTHOLDY, Felix (1809-1847). A series of 28 autograph letters signed and 3 letters signed (the majority 'Felix M.B.', also 'Felix' (five), 'F' (five), 'F.M.B.' (three), 'Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy', and 'Felix') to Carl Klingemann (one to the Swedish composer Adolf Lindblad), Berlin, Dusseldorf and Leipzig, 28 December 1829 -- 5 November 1844, in German, altogether approximately 28½ pages, 8vo, 45½ pages, 4to, and one page, folio, in autograph, and 15 pages, various sizes, in other hands, on bifolia, integral address panels (seal tears occasionally causing slight loss of text; occasional wear and repairs to folds or outer margins); a number of the letters containing contributions by Mendelssohn's father Abraham (three), mother Lea and sisters Rebekka (four) and Fanny.
An intimate and engaging series to a close family friend, the poet and London-based diplomat Carl Klingemann. The recipient's close engagement with the Mendelssohn family is clear from the first letter in this group, a delightful effusion by the whole family, with successive contributions by Rebekka, Felix, Rebekka, Lea, Abraham, Fanny and again Felix, rejoicing in the Liederspiel Die Heimkehr aus der Fremde for which Klingemann had composed the text in celebration of the parents' silver wedding anniversary. There is much reference to family news over the course of the correspondence, including the death of Lea Mendelssohn in 1843 ('I came too late -- but I did at least see her'); the degree of intimacy is indicated by Mendelssohn confiding financial details, and on occasion asking Klingemann to run errands for him -- as in March 1834, when he is asked to order a new set of clothes for him from London tailors -- 'I have been driven to this letter only by the most desperate need: that is, Klingemann, that I have no coat ... dress me! For I've become a shabby music director'.
The letters follow almost the whole course of Mendelssohn's adult career, dominated by a catalogue of complaint about Berlin musical life, its philistinism, backbiting and the overwork to which he is driven: 'In any small town in Germany I could have found better musicians than here'; 'In the last concert of the series [at the Berlin Schauspielhaus] we are supposed to have my Walpurgisnacht, and the Hebrides with it, and Beethoven's G major concerto and something else. So I've got my hands full, and my feet full, and I can hardly breathe' (5 December 1832); earlier in the same year he complains 'The music is going badly, the people only become more philistine'; in February 1833 things are particularly bad -- 'China would be less troublesome', 'I am fashionable in Berlin, but they take me for an arrogant eccentric'; a letter of 14 August 1835 provides a detailed description of the uprising in Berlin against the Prussian regime; the last in this series, in 1844, expresses relief at the prospect of his release from employment in the royal service.
Other engagements provide more satisfaction, including his post at the Leipzig Gewandhaus and his involvement in the Lower Rhine Music Festival at Dusseldorf -- but above all, his visits to England: in July 1832 he rejoices at the success of his English stay, and in December of the same year compares the meanness of the Berlin public most unfavourably with the generosity of English patrons; in September 1840, about to set off for Birmingham, he asks Klingemann to 'tell Novello or Moore that I'm coming'; in December 1843 he asks for advice on taking up an engagement with the Philharmonic Society in London, pondering the importance of having a 'decisive voice in the choosing of the programme, a sort of initiative or veto'.
Intermingled with complaints of overwork, the letters also contain frequent bulletins of the progress of Mendelssohn's compositions, often with delightful characterisations of the works: in April 1830 he writes of his new symphony that 'the first movement is a fat beast with bristles'; on 17 January 1835, 'a couple of weeks ago I wrote easily my best Song without Words [op.38 no.3], which you will soon have, and tell me whether I should call it "The Summer Evening" or not'; on 1 March 1839, he refers to his new 'Herbstlied', 'which I, even if it's no good, have composed in such a way that everyone loves the words'; in January 1843, on progress with the revisions to Die erste Walpurgisnacht, 'Often I can't get away from the table for many hours, I'm so gripped by the good company of the well-known oboes and violas and the like, which live much longer than all of us, and are such good friends'. There is at all stages an engaging lightness of touch, as when, sending a new a new song setting in April 1830, he urges Klingemann to praise him for it 'quite shamelessly, and tell me how successfully I have captured the wonderful intentions of the poet etc etc'. There is much on the progress of his oratorio St Paul, for which Klingemann provided a translation of the libretto (in August 1835 he is working so intensely on it 'that my head buzzes'), and especially on their collaboration on the projected opera Pervonte, including two detailed letters in April and June 1834 on the synthesis of Kotzebue and Wieland in the libretto. Above all there is a constant pleasure in 'what a heavenly calling Art is'.
The letter to the Swedish composer Lindblad on 11 April 1830 refers to their agreement to exchange new compositions -- Mendelssohn has just sent him a Quartet in A minor, and chides him for not sending anything in return; also referring to disagreements with Franz Berwald, in particular about his comments on Beethoven.
Carl Klingemann (1798-1862) was secretary to the Hanoverian legation in Berlin, and from 1828 a diplomat at the Court of St James's. It was he, together with the pianist Ignaz Moscheles, who introduced Mendelssohn to London life in 1829, and he accompanied Mendelssohn on his famous tour of Scotland in the same year. (31)