10th 2008
A good day for prodigies

Posted under: American history, childhood, European history

eustace-tillarybama.JPGIt’s a good day to be a boy genius:  Barack Obama once again swept two big primaries and overwhelmed Hillary Clinton yesterday in a Southern state primary.  Now all eyes turn to the Eastward, to see which way the Maine caucus will go.  UPDATE:  As the nation goes, so goes Maine, at least this weekend?  Obama wins another caucus in a walk–so far, with 59 precincts reporting, it looks like 57-42 for Obama.

 In other boy genius news:  NPR’s Weekend Edition Sunday featured an interesting bit of trivia:  this winter is the 150th anniversary of the popularization of Felix Mendelssohn’s “Wedding March” as a wedding recessional.  The credit (or blame) goes to the planners of the wedding of Queen Victoria’s eldest daughter Princess Victoria Adelaide Mary Louise to Frederick Wilhelm IV of Prussia, on January .  More interesting to me was the fact that Mendelssohn (1809-1847) composed the “Wedding March” as part his composition of music to accompany his favorite play, William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, at the age of 17.

But as classical music historian Robert Greenberg says in the interview, Mendelssohn was already an accomplished mendelssohn1.jpgand ambitious composer who between the ages of 12 and 14 had composed four operas, twelve string symphonies, among others.  “He came from a wealthy banking family in Berlin, and his parents wanted only the best for their children,” Greenberg says in the interview.  “They were over-educated by any standards. Mendelssohn could speak multiple languages as a child, reading Homer in the original by the time he was 10. He was also an excellent water-colorist. Music was just another one of those things he mastered as a young man.”  It’s a good thing he accomplished so much at such young ages–he died at age 38 from a stroke.  Tragically, a stroke had killed his sister Fanny the previous year.  Brother and sister were very close–upon hearing of Fanny’s fatal stroke, Mendelssohn allegedly screamed and fainted away.  A rather Gothic flourish for a man known as the first of the great Romantic composers.

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One Response to “A good day for prodigies”

  1. rootlesscosmo on 10 Feb 2008 at 1:59 pm #

    When the Nazis occupied Prague, an official, recalling that there were statuary heads of famous composers on the roof of the opera house, sent two soldiers to remove the head of “the Jew Mendelssohn.” (He was, of course, a lifelong, very devout Lutheran.) Once on the roof, they couldn’t recognize any of the heads, so to be on the safe side, they went after the one with the biggest nose; only the timely intervention of a superior stopped them destroying the head of Wagner.

    This story is basis for the title of Jiri Weil’s Mendelssohn is on the Roof


    which is mostly a very dark account of life and death in the “transient camp” at Terezin.

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