MENDELSSOHN BARTHOLDY, FELIX
Important letter, signed and inscribed by the composer ("Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy"), to Ferdinand David, ABOUT HIS STRING QUARTET, OP.12, HIS FEELINGS FOR BETTY PISTOR, AND THE ST. MATTHEW PASSION, 13 April 1830
DICTATED BY MENDELSSOHN WHILE HE WAS RECOVERING FROM MEASLES, in the composer's hand the signature following the first eight lines ("Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy"), the signature at the end of the first postscript ("Felix MB") and the entry "lo stesso, lo stessissimo mit Variationen von Beethoven" at the end of the second postscript, the remainder in an unidentified hand; Mendelssohn opens the closely-written letter in light-hearted fashion, explaining that he is dictating the letter, since he has the measles, and is not allowed to read or write; he then continues in a three-page postscript, stating how they miss him, mentioning Eduard Rietz, observing how, since he has been away, he has grown detached from them, listing other seldom-seen acquaintances, noting that the winter has been spent quietly without much music, DISCUSSING HIS LATEST COMPOSITIONS, the "Liederspiel" (Aus der Fremde, MWV L6) performed on the occasion of his parents' silver wedding jubilee, which he regards as his best composition, his quartets [among these, no doubt, the string quartet in E flat Op.12], and a symphony (the 'Reformation' symphony, MWV N15) whose first three movements are complete; also discussed are Mendelssohn's plans for travel to Italy, the composer referring to the terrible weather he endured in the Scottish highlands the previous year, expressing poetically each other's experiences since their last meeting, likening his correspondent to another David soothing the troubled brow of his princely ruler by means of his violin, describing his journeys on foreign seas as far as Fingal's Cave, giving voice to his desire to know all about his current situation, mentioning his brother Paul, alluding to the recent marriage of his elder sister Fanny, noting that it has done him good to return to his present quiet life after the wild days of his stay in England, INFORMING HIM WITH MOCK HORROR OF THE ENGAGEMENT OF BETTY PISTOR to Prof. Dr. Rudorff, asking him to alter the dedication on the autograph of the quartet Op.12 from "B.P. [Betty Pistor]" to "B.R. [Betty Rudorff]", REFERRING TO THE ST. MATTHEW PASSION, the offer to conduct which he had to turn down on account of his travels, observing that Zelter made a number of troublesome changes, mentioning Schlesinger's score and vocal score of the same, giving details of an offer of Schlesinger's regarding a symphony he should compose, and other matters
...Von dem Liederspiel zur silbernen Hochzeit wird Kudelsky erzählt haben. Es hat uns Allen frohe Zeit gemacht, und ich halte es wohl für meine beste Composition; auch meine Quartette hast Du durch Kudelsky bekommen...Höre und erschrick: Betty Pistor ist verlobt. Total verlobt. Sie gehört dem Dr. und Prof. jur. Rudorff erb- und eigenthümlich zu. Ich beauftrage Dich, sobald Du durch Berliner Blätter ihre vollzogene, eheliche Verbindung erfährst, über meinem Quartett...das B.P. durch einen kleinen Federschwung geschickt in ein B.R. zu verwandeln...Die Passion ist am Palmsonntag aufgeführt worden...Zelter hat mehrere Veränderungen darin gemacht, über die viel hin und her gemurrt worden ist...
4 pages, 8vo (21.2 x 13.5cm), address panel, seal tear, with one page of typed recollections by Ernst Rudorff concerning Ferdinand David and Betty Pistor, Berlin, 13 April 1830, splitting along hinge and folds, a few tiny holes, slightly affecting text
A REMARKABLE, HUMOROUS AND WIDE-RANGING, LETTER WRITTEN BY THE TWENTY-ONE-YEAR-OLD COMPOSER TO HIS FRIEND, THE VIOLINIST FERDINAND DAVID.
Ferdinand David (1810-1873) had become Mendelssohn's friend during his time as violinist at the Berlin Königstadt theatre (1826-1829). Around a year before the present letter David had left for Dorpat (now Tartu, Estonia), where he would spend six years as quartet leader under the patronage of Karl von Liphart. In 1836 he became leader of the Gewandhaus orchestra under Mendelssohn, a position he retained for the remainder of his life. The wide-ranging nature of the present letter is eloquent testimony to the various interests which the two young musicians had in common. In addition to recalling his first trip to England (and Scotland), his sister Fanny's marriage and Schlesinger's editions of the St. Matthew Passion, the letter is notable for its references to Betty Pistor, singer at the Singakademie and friend to the Mendelssohn sisters, and towards whom the composer entertained warm, if unrequited, feelings. For the manuscript of the Quartet in E flat op.12, whose dedication by Mendelssohn to Betty Pistor is discussed in the present letter, see Lot 55. Included here is one page of some typed recollections by Ernst Rudorff, in which he describes in some detail the nature of Mendelssohn's (unrequited) relationship with his mother, Betty Pistor.
This is the original letter dictated, signed and sent by Mendelssohn. There is a copy in the Stadtgeschichtliches Museum, Leipzig, incorrectly described as autograph by the Sämtliche Briefe, and another in Berlin, from which the letter was first published in 1888. Sotheby's is grateful for the advice of Ralf Wehner in assisting our description of this lot.
Julius Eckhardt, Ferdinand David und die Familie Mendelssohn-Bartholdy (Leipzig, 1888), pp.32-36; Hans Joachim Rothe and Reinhard Szeskus, edd., Mendelssohn Bartholdy, Briefe aus Leipziger Archiven (1972), pp. 126-131; Sämtliche Briefe, volume 1 (2008) no.295
Condition is described in the main body of the cataloguing, where appropriate.
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