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<<  -- 2 --  Jennifer Paull    THE BONSAI SEQUOIA


He stemmed from not only an affluent, but also a remarkable family background. As a child, Fanny, Felix and their baby sister escaped in disguise with their parents from their native Hamburg, which had become intolerable under French occupation. They settled in Berlin, already a family centre from the days of Moses Mendelssohn, Felix' grandfather, the great German philosopher.

The barriers are not erected which can say to aspiring talents and industry, 'Thus far and no farther'. -- Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)

Born after the death of his erudite predecessor, Felix never knew his grandfather. However, many of Moses' characteristics; great lucidity, a sweet nature, and a romantic imagination, lived on in Felix, who was indeed to go further. However, with death awaiting him at 38, tragically, it was never to be far enough.

Felix Mendelssohn was a loving son, brother, husband and father: a man of honour who acted honourably. Perhaps he obeyed his teachers a trifle too much, and lacked the rebel ingredient in his DNA to 'do his own thing his way'. By the age of twenty, he had only really scaled the heights of composition once with the profound brilliance of his Octet for Strings, written in 1825. By this same age, Brahms was to be declared 'a genius' by Robert Schumann. This same Robert Schumann was also Mendelssohn's friend, but the definition was not.

Fanny and Felix, always sharing their talent for music, were inseparable. By 1818, Felix' father Abraham took his two young musicians with him on a business trip to Paris where they both had lessons with Rilaire. After their return to Berlin, in addition to studying the piano and violin, Carl Zelter drilled Felix in musical theory. He was a scientific musician with more than a dash of the pedantic and the dictatorial about him. Ruthlessly, he instilled what he believed to be the Sacred Laws of Music in his student.

When I examine myself and my methods of thought, I come to the conclusion that the gift of fantasy has meant more to me than my talent for absorbing positive knowledge.
-- Albert Einstein (1879-1955) -- German-born mathematical physicist

Zelter may well have laid the bricks of construction with a trowel and mortar in one hand, whilst casting to the wind the seeds of destruction of instinctive, creative freedom in the other.

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Copyright © 4 November 2002 Jennifer Paull, Vouvry, Switzerland


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