The Life Of Mendelssohn: Britain

Whenever he needed artistic pampering there was one place Felix Mendelssohn could always be sure of a warm welcome: England.

During a visit in 1842, he enjoyed his first personal contact with the young Queen Victoria and her beloved consort Prince Albert.

He spent an evening at the Palace accompanying the 23-year-old monarch in songs composed by himself and Fanny, after which Victoria gave him two themes on which to extemporise. 

Later that evening she wrote in her diary: "Rule Britannia and the National Anthem – really I have never heard anything so beautiful; the way in which he blended them both together and changed over from one to the other was quite wonderful, as well as the exquisite harmony and feelings he put into the variations, and the powerful rich chords and modulations which reminded one of his compositions."

Mendelssohn continued to be based in Germany, where in 1843 he helped set up the Leipzig Conservatory, but his greatest musical success came in 1846 with the premiere of his oratorio Elijah in Birmingham.

He was quite overwhelmed by the warmth and enthusiasm of the audience that night: "No work of mine ever went so admirably at its first performance," he reported, "nor was received with such enthusiasm by both the musicians and the audience alike as this oratorio. No fewer than four choruses and four arias were encored!"