Mendelssohn-Bartholdy, Felix. (1809–1847)
Autograph Letter - "If society is still in existence by New Year's Eve (which is doubtful), then let it be sung that evening"
Highly intriguing and important autograph letter, signed "Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy." 1 page, 8vo., Leipzig, March 12, 1846. In German, most probably to Jacob Bernhard Limburger, founder of the Liedertafel Chorus of Leipzig. Boldly inked, block of mild toning from past display, a few archival repairs on verso, overall fine.
"What should I do, since I received your note yesterday...Give up a principle that I had expressed full of magnanimity and with fear of no man? Never! But to take my song and saddle myself with the appearance of base self-interest? Even less than never! (« Ein Princip aufgeben, daß ich voll Edelmuth und ohne Menschenfurcht ausgesprochen hatte ? Nimmermehr ! Aber mein Lied nehmen, u. den Schein niedrigen Eigennutzes auf mich laden ? Noch weniger als nimmermehr ! »).'This idea appeared to the doubter as best in the end' [Quotation from Homer's "Iliad"]: I wrote another little song to go with the Schiller and now ask that you accept both in fond remembrance. (« ich habe noch ein kleines Lied zu dem Schillerschen hinzugeschrieben, und bitte Sie nun beide zu freundlichem Andenken anzunehmen ») But the little New Year's song (« das kleine Neujahrslied ») must not be announced yet. If society is still in existence by New Year's Eve (which is doubtful), then let it be sung that evening; and if we like it (which is also doubtful), then let it always occur at New Year's, but at no other time. Now if the other composers do the same, as I hope they will, then keep your songs, and I my principle, intact." ("Machen es nun die andern Componisten, wie ich hoffe, eben so, so behalten Sie Ihre Lieder und ich mein Princip unversehrt")
During the period of this letter, Mendelssohn was hard at work on Elijah. Writing soon after (letter from Felix to Edward Buxton, March 21) "now very busy at my Oratorio," Robert Schumann also noted in his Tagebucher (II ,399) that Mendelssohn was in the "full fire" of inspiration during these weeks. Though Elijah was his primary concern in March 1846, Mendelssohn was also fulfilling a variety of commissions and, with the mention of "the other composers" in the present letter, it is possible he is referring to the German-Flemish Singing Festival in Cologne, for which he was writing the song "An die Kunstler," Op. 68, completed on April 19th. A superb letter, showing Mendelssohn's adherence to strong principles of musical integrity.