[Mendelssohn-Bartholdy, Felix. (1809–1847)] [Rietz, Julius. (1812–1877)] Frege, Livia. (1818–1891)
Original 1849 Program including first Leipzig performance of Mendelssohn's "Athalia"
"Concert im Saale des Gewandhauses zum Besten des Orchester-Pensionsfonds. Donnerstag, den 1. Februar 1849." [Concert to benefit the Gewandhaus Orchestra pension fund. Thursday, February 1, 1849].
A remarkable original program of the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra on 1st February, 1849. 4 pp., scattered foxing, mild surface creases, overall very fine. 7.25 x 9.5 inches (18.5 x 24 cm.)
The first section of the concert included the overture to Hero und Leander by Julius Rietz, two songs for four voices composed by Niels Gade and Moritz Hauptmann, Karl Reinecke performing Mozart's piano concerto No. 20 in D minor, and Livia Frege singing Beethoven's song cycle "An die ferne Geliebte". The second section consisted of the public debut of music from Mendelssohn-Bartholdy's Athalia, with interstitial dialogue performed by Eduard Devrient.
Livia Frege was a singer and patron of the arts, whose friends included Felix Mendellsohn-Bartholdy and Robert Schumann.
In addition to his popular score to A Midsummer Night's Dream Felix Mendelssohn wrote incidental music to several other plays. Commissioned by the Prussian King Friedrich Wilhelm IV, the incidental music to Athalia was intended for a private performance of the play by Jean Racine. It consists of an overture, a march, and six vocal pieces. The choruses were originally composed for female voices with piano accompaniment, and were completed at Leipzig in 1843. In June of the following year, during a visit to London, Mendelssohn wrote the overture and the famous march of the priests, with the expectation that the drama would be brought to the stage in Berlin. On his return to Germany he completed the work by rearranging the choruses and scoring their accompaniment for full orchestra. The work was only performed twice in Germany in Mendelssohn‘s lifetime, for »His Majesty the King and the Highest Court« in Charlottenburg Palace in December 1845 and for the general public, also at the request of the king and conducted by the composer, at the city theatre in Potsdam in January 1846.
The play and its complete music were next performed at the celebrations in memory of the late composer at the Royal Theatre in December 1847. But the story does not end there. Only two years after Mendelssohn‘s death, Eduard Devrient wrote his »connecting passages for Mendelssohn-Bartholdy‘s music to Athalie« condensing the central features of Racine‘s drama into a coherent narrative that complements the musical numbers.
The posthumous publication as opus 74 by Julius Rietz at Breitkopf & Härtel soon followed, a sign of the continuing interest in the music of Athalia, which received its first Leipzig performance, conducted by Rietz and using Devrient‘s texts, in the Gewandhaus in February 1849.