When I am not worrying about the fate of Western civilisation, I play the piano. I much prefer the latter. One composer who has brought me a great deal of joy in recent years is the German, Felix Mendelssohn 1809-1847. If you want to hear some works which combine thrilling virtuosity with stunning beauty, I strongly recommend his Violin Concerto, and his Rondo e Capricio for piano.
My current favourites of Mendelssohn’s, both to play and to teach, are his Songs without Words for the piano. Consisting of 48 in all, each is unique, each is tricky, but they are easy to learn the notes and are really, really fun.
I am fascinated by one aspect of his life story which played a significant role in inspiring his works: like many young men of his age, when he reached maturity he travelled, often by foot, throughout Europe. He explored England, Scotland, Wales, Italy (Venice, Florence, Rome and Naples), Switzerland, Austria and France. His time in Venice influenced his Venetian Gondola Songs. His time in Scotland inspired his Third “Scottish” Symphony.
Felix was blessed with being able to explore a truly diverse Europe, a diversity which enriched his music.
If you think I chose the wording of that last sentence very, very deliberately, then you are 100% correct.
In his lifetime, Felix Mendelssohn played a crucial role in reviving the name of a German composer whose music was foundational to Western classical music, J.S. Bach. He knew the great German poet Friedrich Goethe, and premiered in Britain the Fifth “Emperor” Piano Concerto of the greatest German ever, Ludwig van Beethoven.
More specific to the current season, and to the point of this article, music he wrote to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the invention of the printing press by German Johannes Gutenberg, was adapted to words written by Charles Wesley and others to form the Christmas Carol, Hark the Herald Angels Sing. When performed by a professional choir and a good orchestra, it is gorgeous, and the descant for the sopranos is mighty.
My condolences to the German people, whose Christmas celebrations were violated today by an Islamic terrorist. Thank you for all you have given to our civilisation, and I hope time can help you heal.
As I often do with these posts celebrating our Western heritage, I have kept politics, so far, to a minimum. If you would like to keep it that way, finish here, and a very warm Merry Christmas to you.
If you want politics, read on.
The Germans have so much to be proud of, so much to be patriotic about, so much good on which to base a strong sense of identity and nationalism. It is a horrible irony that because of a socialist who led Germany for twelve years and killed millions of people, the German nation is not allowed to have pride in its identity in and of itself, that Germans are not allowed to express patriotism or nationalism. We currently experience an Orwellian, Matrix-like lie, lived in real time, that although it was a socialist who led Germany for twelve years, it is nationalism, and not socialism, which is frowned upon across not just Germany, but the whole of Europe.
Because the crimes of Adolf Hitler have been able to be blamed, by socialists, on nationalism, rather than the socialism of the national socialists of Germany and the international socialists of the USSR who started World War Two, the whole of Europe has been denied the nationalism it requires to remain Europe. Today, Europe is led by socialists who are determined to tear down Europe’s borders, and destroy its identity as European, claiming that this is essential to ensure war never comes to Europe again.
They ignore the most important lessons of World War Two: that appeasing a determined bully only encourages the bully; and it was, in fact, the nationalism of the Europeans, determined to live, free of foreign domination, in their traditional lands, home to their ethnic group, following their own customs and laws – indeed, the very definition of nationalism – which defeated the socialism of the national socialists of Germany (and, 45 years later, the international socialists of the USSR).
This lie must be challenged, and the lessons of WW2 must be remembered.
The wave of bombings, stabbings, truck rampages, rapes – in short, the wave of terrorism perpetrated by Muslims – which has swept Europe in the last few years is but a symptom of its sickness. The flood of migrants swamping its borders is a symptom too. Europe is in a demographic death spiral. It faces perennial debt. Its identity and very existence hang in the balance.
2017 will see elections which will most likely lead to nationalist governments in the heart of Europe. This will give Europeans, Europe, a fighting chance of survival.
Photo by Five Furlongs