Ideas & Issues

Midspring Surprise: Lost Mendelssohn Song Found

Twenty-nine gentle measures by Felix Mendelssohn are creating quite a stir — after being lost for more than a century.

The song, called "The Heart of Man Is Like a Mine," was a private commission Mendelssohn wrote for an acquaintance in Berlin — and which the composer apparently never wanted to circulate publicly. Mendelssohn wrote it in 1842 at age 33, five years before his death.

Mendelssohn scholars, however, have already known about the existence of this formerly lost song: It was sold at auction twice, first in 1862 and then again in 1872. The manuscript includes Mendelssohn's signature, proving its authenticity and making it a valuable piece of paper even without this little lied.

BBC 4's Today program asked two performers from London's Royal College of Music, alto Amy Williamson and pianist Christopher Glynn, to perform the newly rediscovered piece, whose text is drawn from a poem by Friedrich Rückert called Das Unveränderliche and which is not even a minute and a half long.

Where has this song been all this time? That remains a bit of a mystery. According to the BBC, the manuscript "emerged in a private collection in the U.S." and will be sold at Christie's auction house later this month, where it is anticipated to sell for roughly $25,000-$42,000.

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