THE MENDELSSOHNS: Three Generations of Genius by Herbert Kupferberg

THE MENDELSSOHNS: Three Generations of Genius

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KIRKUS REVIEW

It's a little difficult to justify the subtitle's claim to genius for the second generation of this family, also called here the ""Rothschilds of culture,"" since Abraham, son of the famous Moses and father of the equally famous Felix, never saw himself as more than a ""human hyphen"" and Kupferberg later summarizes him as merely an ""upright"" man. But founding father Moses Dessau who became Mendelssohn after he left Dessau for Berlin was a notable merchant-scholar-sage, best remembered for his original work the Phaedon and his translation of the Bible. Of his six children, there was one certainly, Dorothea, more prominent than Abraham, an emancipated woman who became the mistress of Schlegel. Felix however takes up three-fifths of this book, from his precocious musical beginnings, to the elegant moments musicals he cut on his grand tour, to his later and happily domesticated life with Cecile and their many children. Kupferberg leaves to the ""amateur psychologist"" the question of the intensity of his identification and vice versa with his sister, Fanny, and leaves his tutelage of Jenny Lind to the speculative romantic (did more than her ""upper-F sharp possess an irresistible charm""?). There is a closing evaluation of Mendelssohn's lasting contribution and the work is respectably researched and straightforwardly written -- cf. Those Fabulous Philadelphians, 1969.

Pub Date: March 1st, 1972
Publisher: Scribners