Lost Mendelssohn piece played for very first time

By Charlotte Oliver, May 6, 2014
A portrait of Mendelssohn at the age of 30 (James Warren Childe)

A portrait of Mendelssohn at the age of 30 (James Warren Childe)

A recently discovered piece of music by German Jewish composer Felix Mendelssohn has been played for the first time in public – 140 years after it went missing.

The song, entitled “The Heart of Man is Like a Mine”, was performed on Radio 4's Today programme this morning.

The piece was found by chance in the United States among a private collection of manuscripts. It was written in 1842, but had been missing since it was sold at auction in 1872.

According to Mendelssohn scholar Peter Ward Jones, it is unlikely that the privately commissioned piece was ever performed before - and is actually accompanied by a letter written by the composer prohibiting its circulation.

Mr Ward Jones told the BBC ahead of the song’s first performance on Tuesday: “It’s lovely to hear it. All composers have their better days and their off days [but] this is certainly not one of Mendelssohn’s off days.”

The piece will be sold later this month at Christie’s London, where it is estimated to go for between £15,000 and £25,000.

Christie’s specialist in manuscripts Thomas Venning said: “The manuscript has been lost for 140 years, so it seems likely that we have here music by one of the great composers that no living person has ever heard.

“It is quite a simple, short song with a catchy, lilting melody. I can't wait to hear it played."

Felix Mendelssohn was born in Hamburg in 1809 to wealthy German Jewish parents who renounced their faith and later had their children baptised by the Reform Church. He was considered a child prodigy from a young age, composing his first piece at the age of 12. His most famous works include the Hebrides Overture, his Italian and Scottish Symphonies, and his Overture to Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream.

Last updated: 2:01pm, May 6 2014