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Romantics and Classicists come out swinging in this extremely welcome biography of Mendelssohn. Biographer Werner smashes the old image of Mendelssohn as a weak-lipped, effeminate prodigy and substitutes a somewhat more dynamic figure. Mendelssohn's devaluation began just after his death, with Wagner penning anti-emitic tracts which held the dead Jew up as the authentic failure of Jewry to achieve anything deeply felt or significant in music. Wagner claimed that Mendelssohn lacked folk roots in German culture. Around the turn of the century a twilight of the gods set in that, for Mendelssohn, has remained as immovably fixed as concrete. Though Mendelssohn was recognized here and there as an independent successor to Beethoven, he was generally regarded as a hothouse flower. His memory was attacked by the German press, which accused him of shallowness, light living, and parasitic wealth. The notion was that he failed to suffer for his art and this, linked with anti-Semitism, washed Mendelssohn's name from concert programs, except for popular trash and bravura pieces for soloists. The discussion of esthetics herein is refreshing but likely to fog the eye- still it's a vital book.

Pub Date: Nov. 25th, 1963
Publisher: Macmillan-Free Press