On Al­bion’s shores

BBC Music Magazine - - Debussy In England -

The for­eign com­posers in­spired by Bri­tish vis­its

Vir­tu­ally ev­ery lead­ing com­poser has been tempted by Bri­tain, yet not all have made the nec­es­sary chan­nel cross­ing. One who did was Jo­hann Jakob Froberger, who in the early 1650s was robbed by pi­rates be­tween Calais and Dover. Ar­riv­ing in Lon­don dressed in fish­er­man’s clothes, Froberger of­fered to pump the or­gan for a con­cert; alas, he botched that job and was given the boot. Froberger ex­pressed his woes in an Alle­mande Plainte faite à Lon­dres pour passer la mélan­cholie.

Men­delssohn (above, with Al­bert and Vic­to­ria), who first vis­ited Eng­land in 1829, had far hap­pier ex­pe­ri­ences. Though he loved Lon­don, he ac­tu­ally found mu­si­cal in­spi­ra­tion in Scot­land. Brav­ing sea sick­ness to see Fin­gal’s Cave, he im­me­di­ately sketched the open­ing bars of The He­brides over­ture.

Eng­land’s choral tra­di­tion has left its mark, too, with Haydn’s Cre­ation in­spired by a West­min­ster Abbey per­for­mance of Han­del’s Mes­siah. There has been lit­er­ary in­spi­ra­tion, too, and not only from Shakespeare. Wag­ner, find­ing him­self in Lon­don in 1839, vis­ited the House of Com­mons to find the MP Sir Ed­ward Bul­wer-Lyt­ton, au­thor of Rienzi, Last of the Ro­man Tri­bunes.

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