Jump to content
Mander Organs
iy45

Mendelssohn's 3rd Sonata

Recommended Posts

I wonder if anyone has any theories about something that's puzzled me for years.

Little, in the preface to his Novello editions says of the first movement: "The final version of a work written for performance at his sister Fanny's wedding in October  1829".

Certainly the outer sections would make a decent Wedding March, but how do we explain the first fugue, which has in the pedals the tune which in Germany is sung to a metrical setting of Psalm 130 - "Aus tiefer Not schrei zu dir", or, in English, "Out of the depths I cry to thee"?

Surely not Mendelsohn's idea of a joke, but what might the serious message be?

Ian

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I thought that only the first section of the piece was based on a Processional for Fanny's wedding but that the rest of the piece was added later.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I too thought - somewhere in the depths of my memory - that it was only the outer sections that derived from the wedding march, but when I checked I found the Little quote above; it's not my field, but his introduction in the Novello edition certainly suggests that he knows what he's talking about.

Either may, my question remains: what on earth was Mendelssohn thinking about when he combined a wedding march with a penitential chorale?

Ian

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I’m afraid it doesn’t answer the question, but according to the following, from a German source, the fugue was added very significantly later - 15 years:

This movement, which opens Sonata No. 3 for organ, originated in 1829, when Mendelssohn composed an organ piece for the wedding of his sister Fanny. He wrote home and asked his family to look for the piece, but the work was never found. Thus the opening movement of Sonata No. 3 is what Mendelssohn remembered of the wedding music for his sister written fifteen years earlier. He expanded the wedding movement into a sweeping double fugue with the chorale “Aus tiefer Not schrei ich zu dir” sounding in the pedal part.”

From another source we are told that Mendelssohn’s health began to fail in 1844; that must have been around the time of composing the Sonata - a possible but totally speculative explanation of “Aus tiefer Not”.  Fanny and Mendelssohn both died three years later in 1847.

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
2 hours ago, Rowland Wateridge said:

I’m afraid it doesn’t answer the question, but according to the following, from a German source, the fugue was added very significantly later - 15 years:

This movement, which opens Sonata No. 3 for organ, originated in 1829, when Mendelssohn composed an organ piece for the wedding of his sister Fanny. He wrote home and asked his family to look for the piece, but the work was never found. Thus the opening movement of Sonata No. 3 is what Mendelssohn remembered of the wedding music for his sister written fifteen years earlier. He expanded the wedding movement into a sweeping double fugue with the chorale “Aus tiefer Not schrei ich zu dir” sounding in the pedal part.”

For some reason I am unable to post a link, but if you Google you can find a 1985 MA thesis by Eugene Murray Gates entitled Towards an Authentic Interpretation of Mendelssohn's Organ Works. On pages 122ff he has this to say about the A Major Sonata:

Quote

Sonata No. 3 in A major
While visiting England for the first time in 1829, Mendelssohn received a request from his sister, Fanny, to compose a Chorale and Prelude for her forthcoming wedding to Wilhelm Hensel. In a letter to Fanny on August 11, the composer expressed his annoyance that he had not been told the date of the wedding, and therefore had no idea how much time he would have to complete the task. Fanny's diary records the fact that the decision to hold the wedding on October 3 was not made until after September 2. Felix toured Scotland and Wales in July and August, and upon returning to England he injured his knee in a carriage accident. A period of enforced convalescence kept him in England until the end of November, making it impossible for him to attend the wedding. The organ piece which Felix had completed did not reach Fanny in time for the ceremony, but undaunted by this turn of events , she composed her own music for the occasion--a Prelude in F major, dated September 28, 1829.

Sonata No. 3 was the f irst of the Six Organ Sonatas to be completed , and was originally intended to be published as No. 1. While preparing to compose this sonata, Mendelssohn remembered the piece he had written for Fanny's wedding and decided to incorporate part of it into his new work.  From Soden, on July 25 , 1844, he wrote Fanny the following letter: 

Look for the organ piece in A major that l composed for your wedding, and wrote out in Wales, and send it to me immediately; you shall positively have it back , but l require it. l have promised an English publisher to furnish him with a whole book of organ pieces; and as l was writing out one after another, the former one recurred to me. l like the beginning, but detest the middle, and am re-writing it with another choral fugue , but should like to compare it with the original, so pray send it here .... Do not forget the organ piece, and still less its author.

Fanny was apparently unable to locate the music, for Mendelssohn wrote a second letter to his sister on August 15, 1844 , asking her to make a further search for the piece. The two movements of the sonata are dated respectively August 9 and August 17, 1844. The interval between Mendelssohn's second letter and the completion of the sonata would have been too short for Fanny to have replied; therefore, one must conclude that the composer finished the sonata without reference to the score of his earlier piece.

According to Gates, the autograph of Fanny Mendelssohn's Prelude for Organ in F major is in the Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. Is there a published edition?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Having just downloaded and played through this Prelude, I'm left with the feeling that it must surely be a juvenile work, as well as being quite "un-organistic" in places.
I can't believe this is a mature work of a serious composer.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 11/10/2019 at 12:31, DHM said:

Having just downloaded and played through this Prelude, I'm left with the feeling that it must surely be a juvenile work, as well as being quite "un-organistic" in places.
I can't believe this is a mature work of a serious composer.

She was a couple of months shy of 23 when she wrote it so I wouldn't call it a juvenile work, but, yes, it's not really worth the bother.  I've never considered Fanny half the composer Clara Schumann was.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Please sign in to comment

You will be able to leave a comment after signing in



Sign In Now

×
×
  • Create New...