On Albion’s shores
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.