Lost Mendelssohn Work Discovered - NWPR's Classical Hosts Comment

May 9, 2014

The BBC reported that a lost Mendelssohn composition was recently rediscovered. The composition, which was commissioned privately, is a simple piece – and was never intended for public performance. In fact, Mendelssohn asked that it not be circulated. For the first time in more than a century and a half, the piece received a live performance, which you can see on the BBC's website.

The lost Mendelssohn manuscript.
Credit BBC

Jessie Jacobs

Jessie Jacobs had this to say: “It’s really a lovely song, but I think the history is more of a focal point than the work itself. It’s always fascinating when pieces have a mysterious past like this; from its beginning as a private commission to the 140 years it was lost to magically ending up in the States. Possibly the first public performance of this Mendelssohn piece was in 2014? Too cool!"

Jacobs highlighted part of the BBC story she thought was particularly interesting.

'This is a very exciting rediscovery: the song was only ever a private commission and we know that even in Mendelssohn's lifetime he deliberately prevented its circulation…'

Given it was a private commission, Ward Jones said Glynn and Williamson's rendition was "almost certainly the first public performance of this song - Mendelssohn would probably have disapproved [because it was written as a private commission].”

Gigi Yellen

Gigi Yellen was also excited about the discovery.

“Yes, it's just a little song, with a lot of mystery! Why didn't the friend he wrote it for want him to publish it? What secrets did these fellows share?

"The news makes me want to get more acquainted with the poet whose lines it sets: Friedrich Ruckert. He's the same poet Mahler famously set in a whole cycle of "Ruckert Lieder." (Did Mahler ever hear this song?)

"And it reminds me to get more acquainted with Mendelssohn's work in other media! I especially love the comment about the signed manuscript from the Mendelssohn scholar Peter Ward Jones, quoted by the BBC, saying, 'Mendelssohn's signatures are a work of art in themselves.'

"Indeed: Among his talents, Felix Mendelssohn could draw. He created some beautiful watercolors and kept a sketchbook handy throughout his well-traveled life.”

Steve Reeder

Steve Reeder explains what makes the find so significant.

“This is fascinating news for several reasons: the stature of the composer, the presence of his artful signature to authenticate the score, the re-discovery in this country, and the combination of master composer and renowned poet, two of the leading figures of the Romantic period.

"The song confirms Mendelssohn' s gift for melody and form. However, it also suggests why he wanted this to remain private. It has a relatively simple, rudimentary quality to it, as if it may have been composed for an amateur singer. (Mendelssohn was also famously self-critical in his work.) Bottom line: it's always fun to turn up "fresh" material by the greatest composers.”