Felix Mendelssohn and his older sister Fanny grew up making music together, with Felix becoming one of history’s most brilliant, well-known composers and Fanny’s music being largely unknown, mostly because both Felix and their father discouraged her from having her music published. Unlike Felix, most of Fanny’s music was never performed publicly during her life, but in private musical salon settings, a constraint based on the gender roles of the time. Fanny and Felix were extremely close. Felix was devastated by Fanny’s death at age 41; the string quartet he composed shortly after her death was subtitled “Requiem for Fanny.” Felix died just six months after his sister.
Felix wrote the “Scottish” Symphony after a visit to Scotland in 1829. He wrote to his sister Fanny: “In the deep twilight we went today to the palace [Holyrood] where Queen Mary lived and loved…The chapel below is now roofless. Grass and ivy thrive there and at the broken altar where Mary was crowned Queen of Scotland. Everything is ruined, decayed, and the clear heavens pour in. I think I have found there the beginning of my ‘Scottish’ Symphony.”
Janáček is one of the most well-known Czech composers, after Dvořák and Smetana. Written in 1878, there is no doubt that Janáček’s Idyll for String Orchestra was heavily influenced by his good friend Antonin Dvořák’s Serenade for Wind Instruments. Dvořák was in the audience at the first performance of Idyll later that same year. The music is elegant with clear references to both Czech and Moravian folk music.
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