Composer Felix Mendelssohn commemorated with English Heritage plaque
6 February 2013
Dmitry Sitkovetsky unveils Mendelssohn commemoration
The regular London visits of Felix Mendelssohn - composer of
the oratorios Elijah, St Paul and Die erste Walpurgisnacht,
as well as a significant body of organ music - have been commemorated with the
installation of a 'Blue Plaque', at the behest of conservation and historic
buildings organisation English Heritage.
The plaque was officially unveiled on 4 February by violinist/conductor Dmitry Sitkovetsky and is attached to 4 Hobart Place, a Grade II listed building near Buckingham Palace in the City of Westminster.
The house is the former home of the Hanoverian embassy secretary, Karl Klingemann. Mendelssohn was at the height of his fame during a series of visits to Britain, stayed four months in total over five separate periods.
During his stays in Hobart Place he conducted the Philharmonic Society on numerous occasions and gave many organ recitals. It was from this building he left to dine with Isambard Kingdom Brunel, which he did not enjoy, and Charles Dickens, which he very much did. It was back to this address that he rushed back to give his account of his audience with Queen Victoria and Prince Albert in 1842.
At his death in 1847 Mendelssohn was widely regarded as Europe’s greatest composer, with one biographer suggesting he was the first composer to be internationally mourned. An obituary in The Times asserted that he 'loved England as heartily as his own home'; memorial concerts were held across the country and a Mendelssohn scholarship was endowed in London the following year.
Sir Nicholas Kenyon, managing director of the Barbican Centre, former BBC Proms director and member of the blue plaque panel, said a key factor in Mendelssohn being widely accepted in the UK was largely down to its enduring choral tradition. 'It was a major factor in the 19th Century, which enabled him to have his works done well here, and as we know they then became accepted into the warp and weft of the English choral tradition in a very major way; Elijah absolutely stood at the centre of that.'
Mendelssohn loved London and his links to the city were strong. Writing about the city he said that there was 'no question that that smoky nest is my preferred city and will remain so. I feel quite emotional when I think of it.'
A plaque was first mooted over a century ago; the case was only recently revived at the suggestion of an English Heritage historian who works on the Blue Plaques scheme. Asked why it had taken over a century for Mendelssohn to be honoured, Sir Nicholas explained that, 'The people at that time who owned the building didn't want a blue plaque on it and the file simply mouldered away until Howard Spencer had a new discussion about it and revived the idea.'
In the year 2016, English Heritage will celebrate 150 years of commemorative plaques, in spite of swingeing cuts in its funding. 'Because there is a huge backlog of nominations for the scheme, there won't be any new nominations for the next couple of years, but plaques will continue to go up,' Sir Nicholas added.