The Price of Assimilation: Felix Mendelssohn and the Nineteenth-Century Anti-Semitic Tradition

The Price of Assimilation: Felix Mendelssohn and the Nineteenth-Century Anti-Semitic Tradition

by Jeffrey S. Sposato
     
 

Most scholars since World War Two have assumed that composer Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy (1809-1847) maintained a strong attachment to Judaism throughout his lifetime. As these commentators have rightly noted, Mendelssohn was born Jewish and did not convert to Protestantism until age seven, his grandfather was the famous Jewish reformer and philosopher Moses

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Overview

Most scholars since World War Two have assumed that composer Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy (1809-1847) maintained a strong attachment to Judaism throughout his lifetime. As these commentators have rightly noted, Mendelssohn was born Jewish and did not convert to Protestantism until age seven, his grandfather was the famous Jewish reformer and philosopher Moses Mendelssohn, and his music was banned by the Nazis, who clearly viewed him as a Jew.

Such facts tell only part of the story, however. Through a mix of cultural analysis, biographical study, and a close examination of the libretto drafts of Mendelssohn's sacred works, The Price of Assimilation provides dramatic new answers to the so-called "Mendelssohn Jewish question."

Sposato demonstrates how Mendelssohn's father, Abraham, worked to distance the family from its Jewish past, and how Mendelssohn's reputation as a composer of Christian sacred music was threatened by the reverence with which German Jews viewed his family name. In order to prove the sincerity of his Christian faith to both his father and his audiences, Mendelssohn aligned his early sacred works with a nineteenth-century anti-Semitic musical tradition, and did so more fervently than even his Christian collaborators required. With the death of Mendelssohn's father and the near simultaneous establishment of the composer's career in Leipzig in 1835, however, Mendelssohn's fear of his background began to dissipate, and he began to explore ways in which he could prove the sincerity of his faith without having to publicly disparage his Jewish heritage.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780195386899
Publisher:
Oxford University Press, USA
Publication date:
11/12/2008
Edition description:
New Edition
Pages:
244
Sales rank:
1,387,556
Product dimensions:
6.10(w) x 9.10(h) x 0.80(d)

Table of Contents

Introduction
I: New Christians
The Mendelssohns and the Synagogue
Reinventing Mendelssohn
Mendelssohn's Evolving Relationship with Judaism
II: The St. Matthew Passion Revival
Judicious Cuts
The St. Matthew Passion Chorales and the Berlin Hymn Tradition
The St. Matthew Passion and the Theology of Friedrich Schleiermacher
Other Performances of the St. Matthew Passion
III: Moses
Christology, Anti-Semitism, and Moses
Mendelssohn, Marx, and the Nineteenth-Century Anti-Semitic Tradition
IV: Paulus
A Textual History of Paulus
Paulus and the Influences of Carl Loewe, Louis Spohr, and Abraham Mendelssohn
Paulus and Philo-Heathenism
The Evolution of the Anti-Semitic Image in Paulus
Lessons from Paulus: A Reevaluation of Die erste Walpurgisnacht
V: Elias
A Textual History of Elias
Christology in Elias
The Jewish Image in Elias
VI: Christus
The Genesis of Christus
The Jewish Image in Christus
The Universality of "Das Volk"
Conclusion: Matters of Perspective

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