When Felix Mendelssohn met Queen Victoria
Saturday 20 April 1996
So Felix was invited to Buckingham Palace, after dinner, one June evening in 1842. Victoria and Albert were almost fluttery with anticipation. They accompanied the composer to the piano and listened with rapt attention as he played selections from his Songs Without Words. When he asked them for a theme to improvise on, they enthusiastically offered two, and the queen much admired his rendition of the Austrian national anthem with the right hand and "Rule, Britannia" with the left. "Really I have never heard anything so beautiful," she wrote in her diary, adding, "Poor Mendelssohn was quite exhausted when he had done playing."
Needless to say, he was asked back. Albert wanted Felix to try his organ, and Victoria wanted what Albert wanted, so there was Mendelssohn, on a Saturday afternoon, at Buckingham Palace again. The prince explained the organ registers and played a chorale. Felix followed with the chorus from St Paul, the three of them singing along and Albert pulling the stops. Next they trooped to the queen's salon, where, at the piano, Victoria sang "Italien". Except that she sang D sharp where it should have been natural, as Mendelssohn later reported, and natural where it should have been sharp, she performed "most charmingly". In fact, he said, "the only really nice, comfortable house in England... where one feels completely at home, is Buckingham Palace"
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