Notes 60.1 (2003) 266-269
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Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy. Musik zu Ein Sommernachtstraum von Shakespeare, op. 61. Herausgegeben von Christian Martin Schmidt. (Leipziger Ausgabe der Werke von Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy, Ser. V: Bühnenwerke, Bd. 8.) Wiesbaden: Breitkopf & Härtel, 2000. [Pref. in Ger., Eng., p. viii-xi; introd., p. xii-xxix; score, 247 p.; facsims., p. 249-58; Krit. Bericht, p. 259-346. Cloth. ISMN M-004-80224-3; SON 403. €179.10.]
Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy. Musik zu Ein Sommernachtstraum von Shakespeare, op. 61: Arrangements für Klavier. Herausgegeben von Christian Martin Schmidt. (Leipziger Ausgabe der Werke von Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy, Ser. V: Bühnenwerke, Bd. 8A.) Wiesbaden: Breitkopf & Härtel, 2001. [Pref. in Ger., Eng., p. viii-xi; introd., p. xii- xxi; score, 197 p.; facsims., p. 199-202; Krit. Bericht, p. 203-56. Cloth. ISMN M-004-80233-5; SON 407. €110.70.]
One of the results of the renaissance in Mendelssohn scholarship that has taken place during the last forty years has been the appearance in modern editions of music unpublished during the composer's lifetime. Mendelssohn, perennially self-critical, withheld a large portion of his oeuvre, believing much of it unfinished or unworthy, and the standard edition of his works published by Breitkopf & Härtel under the editorship of Julius Rietz in from 1874 to 1877 was by no means complete (Werke; reprints: 19 series in 23 vols. [Farnborough, Eng.: Gregg Press, 1967]; min. scores, 62 vols. [New York: Kalmus, 1971]). Mendelssohn scholarship thus lags behind that of many other nineteenth-century composers of similar stature, lacking not only a comprehensive critical edition but also a thematic catalog. Attempts are still being made to establish a reliable works list with all known source materials, such as the recent interim catalog by John Michael Cooper ("Mendelssohn's Works: Prolegomenon to a Comprehensive Inventory," in The Mendelssohn Companion, ed. Douglass Seaton [Westport, CT: Greenwood, 2001], 701-85). The Leipziger Ausgabe der Werke von Felix Mendelssohn, established by the Internationale Felix-Mendelssohn-Gesellschaft in Basel in 1960 (with ten volumes published 1960-77 in Leipzig by the Deutscher Verlag für Musik) and revitalized under the Sächsische Akademie der Wissenschaften in 1997 after the German reunification, is thus sorely needed. Past volumes have made available some of the composer's unknown juvenilia, including his early concertos and string symphonies. With Christian Martin Schmidt's edition of the incidental music to A Midsummer Night's Dream, op. 61, plus a companion volume of Mendelssohn's own arrangements for solo and four-hand piano, the series now adds works that have long been part of the standard repertoire.
Mendelssohn's music for William Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream represents two defining works in the composer's career that were influential in establishing his posthumous reputation. The prodigy encountered August Wilhelm von Schlegel's translation during his youth in the heady intellectual and cultural environment of his parents' Berlin home, and composed the concert overture, opus 21, in 1826 while still a teenager. He wrote the remaining incidental [End Page 266] music seventeen years later for Ludwig Tieck's 1843 Berlin production under the auspices of King Friedrich Wilhelm IV of Prussia. As Mendelssohn's sister Fanny Hensel perceptively noted, "the Midsummer Night's Dream has always been such an inseparable part of our household. ... [It] is really like a part of ourselves, and Felix, in particular, has made it his own" (introd. to orchestral vol., p. xxiv).
In the nineteenth century, the Midsummer Night's Dream overture and incidental music were immensely popular in both theaters and concert halls. Even before the score was published, manuscript copies of the incidental music were circulated for performances in a dozen German cities in only two years, and Schmidt contends in his introduction to the volume (p. xii) that Mendelssohn's music was responsible for the popularity of Shakespeare's play in German-speaking countries. In England, the incidental music became inseparably associated with theatrical productions of the play...