Tag Archives: 19th Century

Felix Mendelssohn

Jakob Ludwig Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy, born in Hamburg 1809, became one of the most influential composers and conductors of the early Romantic period. A talented pianist and organist he is also regarded by some as one of the most brilliant and skilled composers of classical music. Some critics go so far as to name him the 19th century equivalent of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

Mendelssohn appeared destined for a fascinating career from an extremely early age, being recognised by tutors and parents alike as a musical prodigy. His composing and pianist skills quickly grew and he began to achieve great acclaim across Germany. This in turn ignited a spark and revived the work of other composers such as Johann Sebastian Bach.

Portrait of Mendelssohn by the English miniaturist James Warren Childe (1778–1862), 1839.

Portrait of Mendelssohn by the English miniaturist James Warren Childe (1778–1862), 1839.

Mendelssohn’s fame was not however confined to the people of Germany, as many of his major works such as the Scottish Symphony and the overture The Hebrides debuted in Britain, which he visited ten times during his life. The 1830s and early 1840s heralded years of increasing popularity for Mendelssohn. In 1842 he even performed private concerts for Prince Albert and Queen Victoria, who both greatly admired his work. The following year he founded one of the most prestigious music institutions in Germany – the Leipzig Conservatoire (now the University of Music and Theatre Leipzig). His work included numerous symphonies, concerti, oratorios, piano and chamber music, most notably of which, his Overture for A Midsummer Night’s Dream. His Songs Without Words are regarded as his most famous solo piano compositions.

Mendelssohn’s final years of life were sadly ones of great tragedy. Between 1835 and 1847 the loss of his father, mother and sister generated a tremendously depressive state of mind which saw his health deteriorate rapidly. He passed away later in 1847. It is widely believed that the height of his success had yet to be achieved, with events of his later life labelling him ‘the tortured artist’.

 His Letters

Through the generosity and kind donations of Sir Hugh Owen and George Powell, Aberystwyth University now owns a selection of letters and scores, composed by Mendelssohn himself. The letters span from 1832 – 1847, covering a large portion of his life, and have given birth to new and previously unknown information concerning several features of his activities and career.

Mendelssohn letter No. 1 - entailing social engagements in Paris (1832).

Mendelssohn letter No. 1 – entailing social engagements in Paris (1832).

The university holds seventeen letters in total, which had been written to a variety of correspondents. Social engagements, concert life, his own creative work, as well as requests and recommendations, are but some of the areas discussed. In 2014 the letters underwent a restoration thanks to a generous grant from the National Manuscripts Conservation Trust and CyMAL. This in turn has enabled accessibility for future generations to study and research.



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Filed under Aberystwyth University, Archives

The Student newsletter and Moscow 1812

Come along and see our unique Special Collection displays in Hugh Owen Library. This month we’ve got two collections: On Level D is a display of The Student newsletter from the late nineteenth century while on Level F you’ll find material on Moscow 1812, a turning point in the Napoleonic wars.

The Student

Although UCW Magazine which began in 1878 was intended for student use it was seen by some as rather dry in content and an attempt was made in 1894 to develop a newsletter for the Common Room, called The Student. This wallsheet provides a fascinating picture of student activity a century or more ago, long before the days of Courier.

Moscow 1812

A display featuring contemporary accounts of this turning point in the Napoleonic Wars along with some later representations in music, literature and art.

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Filed under Aberystwyth University, Rare Books

New Library Displays

Hugh Owen Library

On Level D – Nicolas de Fer – A Royal Cartographer

Nicolas de Fer (1646-1720) was one of the great map makers of the late 17th century, proclaimed as Geographer of the King of Spain and the Dauphin. The Library is fortunate to own a large part of his key work – Les Forces d’Europe, which was originally published between 1690 and 1695 and then reissued in 1705. The full work included maps of fortified towns in France, the Low Countries, Germany and around the Mediterranean along with some views. The maps in our collection were acquired by Professor Rudler and later bequeathed to the Library.


On Level F – The Death of a Prime Minister

On 11 May 1812 the Prime Minister, Spencer Perceval, was assassinated in the lobby of the House of Commons. On display are some contemporary accounts of the event and the  subsequent trial of his killer John Bellingham, drawn from the Annual Register and Gentleman’s Magazine for 1812.

Thomas Parry Library

Two Literary Anniversaries

1812 marks the 250th anniversary of the birth of Joanna Baillie, the Scottish poet and dramatist, who died in 1851. On display we have an early edition of her complete works, published in 1853, and an original letter from our archives.

The poet Robert Browning was born on 7 May 1812 and died on 12 December 1889. On display are some early works by him and also a volume of poems presented to him by Sir John Hanmer, a Victorian politician who represented Shrewsbury and then Flintshire for many years.

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by | May 23, 2012 · 1:25 pm