Music: Strange Fruit

It was the Mendelssohns' silver wedding anniversary, and their 20-year-old son Felix had put aside ideas for his third ("Scotch") symphony to fashion a little drawing-room-sized operetta for the happy occasion. It was to be sung by the Mendelssohn daughters, Fanny and Rebecka, two friends of the family, and Fanny's husband, Painter Wilhelm Hensel. Since Hensel had no ear for music, Felix had given him only one note in a trio. When the great day came, wrote one of the more musical friends, Memoirist Eduard Devrient, "[Hensel was] not able to catch the note, though it was blown and whispered to...

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