Quartet in F minor Op.80 ‘Requiem for Fanny’

Composer: Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy (b. 1809 - d. 1847)
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Composer: Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy (b. 1809 - d. 1847)

Performance date: 28/06/2014

Venue: Bantry Library

Composition Year: 1847

Duration: 00:27:45

Recording Engineer: Richard McCullough, RTE

Instrumentation: vn

Instrumentation Category:String Quartet

Artists: Zemlinsky Quartet (František Souček, Petr Střížek [violins], Petr Holman [viola], Vladimír Fortin [cello]) - [quartet]

far I have possessed his full confidence. I have watched his talent develop
step by step and have even, to a certain degree, contributed to his musical
education. He has no other musical advisor but me. Furthermore he never puts an
idea down on paper until I have considered it. Thus for instance, I knew his
operas from memory before even a single note was written down.
So wrote the seventeen-year-old Fanny Mendelssohn of her
thirteen-year-old brother. Mendelssohn remained exceptionally close to his
sister even after they were both happily married and her sudden death from a
stroke in May 1847 proved to be a blow from which he never fully recovered.

That summer of 1847 he took his summer
holiday by the lake at Interlaken, where he found the energy
to write this quartet, known to all as Requiem
for Fanny.
Those who met him that last summer found him paradoxically full
of plans for the future on the one hand while on the other hand continually
asserting that he would soon die. Those whom the gods love die young, barely
two months later he too died of a stroke in the midst of rehearsing his great
oratorio Elijah. He was not even 39
years old, like Mozart and Schubert struck down before his time

This work turns upside down the conventional
image of Mendelssohn’s music as urbane and civilised, putting perfection of
classical form above displays of stormy romantic passion. The F minor Quartet
reveals another Mendelssohn, tormented and passionate, composing music that
brutally exposes the depths of his unhappiness.

The first movement forgoes any hint of cantabile melody, rhythmic energy holds
sway while harmonically inspired motifs provide scope for contrapuntal
development. The thematic material consists largely of figuration like the
opening tremolo. The mood is violent, contrasting sections are abruptly
juxtaposed, often without any transition. This novel approach is even more
evident in the second movement with its striking melodic motifs driving the
music forward by way of vigorously animated and bare unison passages. The
central trio is marked by ostinato lower parts and again no sign of cantabile to release the tension. The
heart-rending Adagio gives birth to a violin melody glowing with sadness and
when its line blends with the other instruments its impact becomes almost
unbearable. The precarious balance is interrupted several times as if to
accentuate the effect of the lonely melody whose echoes, played on the bass
strings, sound far below. The finale gives the impression of a violent shock
whose tremors are tearing the fabric of the music apart.

very last is the sight of him turning down the road to wend back to Interlaken alone. I
thought even then, as I followed his figure, looking none the younger for the
loose dark coat and the wide-brimmed straw hat bound with black crepe which he
wore, that he was too much depressed and worn, and walked too heavily. But who
could have dreamed that his days on earth were so rapidly drawing to a close? 

Henry Chorley, English journalist and friend of Mendelssohn.