Situated on the intersection between two major medieval trade routes, Leipzig became one of the most important cultural cities in Europe, famous for its music and publishing houses. Many great composers flourished writing for its churches, publishers and musical amateurs, and this piano recital illustrates what a rich diversity of music was born here.
Leipzig’s most famous resident, J. S. Bach, settled here in 1723 having accepted the job that Telemann turned down, the Kantor at St. Thomas’ where his duties were to compose music for the four churches of Leipzig and rehearse and train the choirboys. The Chromatic Fantasy and Fugue probably dates from 1726 and is exceptionally daring and surprising in its use of chromaticism.
Felix Mendelssohn was an all-round musician – pianist, conductor, composer, educationalist, philanthropist and even an impressive watercolourist. An extremely active member of the community and a family man, he not only founded and organised funding for a new conservatoire in Leipzig but was also responsible for spearheading the movement that rediscovered the works of Bach, the composer whose music he made it his personal mission to revive. His musical achievements left an enduring mark on the city, as had those of Bach before him. He directed the Gewandhaus Orchestra, toured as a brilliant concert pianist and was of course a child prodigy composer.
Edvard Grieg’s formal musical education was at the Conservatoire in Leipzig where he studied with Niels Gade whom he greatly admired. It was Gade who encouraged him to write his ﬁrst symphony and who enthused about his ﬁrst steps in chamber music.
Niels Gade was an internationally renowned composer, violinist, educator and administrator in his day, although today he is barely recognised. He started composing in his teens and wrote many chamber works and piano pieces, including his ﬁrst Symphony which he sent to Mendelssohn, who was at the time the conductor of the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra. Mendelssohn was so impressed that in 1843 he invited Gade to come to Leipzig to be his assistant conductor and to teach at his newly founded conservatoire. After Mendelssohn’s death in 1847, Gade had become well established and took over as the principal conductor of the Gewandhaus orchestra.
Although Johannes Brahms spent much of his professional life in Vienna, he was introduced to the musical scene in Leipzig by a friend of Robert Schumann and began to give piano recitals in the city. Schumann helped promote the young Brahms by writing him a glowing reference in the press, and so he succeeded in getting his ﬁrst piano compositions published there.
Eleanor Meynell recorded these pieces using a Feurich piano which dates from 1909 (Nr. 201426) from Leipzig. Researches indicate that it must have come over from Germany shortly after the Second World War as it was bought by Joy Bennett, Eleanor’s late mother-in-law in 1954. Perhaps the piano arrived in Hampstead as the instrument of an exiled Jewish family? We can only guess. What we do know is that it was refurbished in 1954/55 when it was bought and then again in 2013 by Hilary Martin.
Julius Feurich started his piano manufacturing company in 1851 in Leipzig. He came from a family of harpsichord and specialist piano makers building up a huge business empire supplying grand and upright pianos all over Europe and to Chile and Brazil. By the 1940’s their position in the market took a downturn, grand pianos simply becoming too expensive to make during and after the war.
Eleanor Meynell won a scholarship to Chetham’s School of Music at the age of 11 where she studied with Heather Slade Lipkin and Ryzsard Bakst. During her time there she was a prize-winner in several national and international competitions and won Bromsgrove Young Musician of the Year aged 15. She also was awarded both ARCM and LGSM diplomas while still at school.
Eleanor has broadcast as a soloist and chamber musician on BBC Radio 3, Classic fM and Radio Belfast, and is currently on the staﬀ at Trinity Laban College of Music and Goldsmiths College where she accompanies and coaches. As well as singing in the Monteverdi Choir, she also plays for auditions and masterclasses for John Eliot Gardiner and is a mentor on the apprenticeship scheme. She made her Wigmore Hall debut in 2015 playing with several members of the Monteverdi Choir in music by Schubert and Brahms which received critical acclaim in The Times.
She has recently performed Beethoven 4th and Grieg Piano concertos, and future plans include performances with her piano quartet as well as Saint-Saëns’ Carnival of the Animals with the London Mozart Players.
She plays for many young aspiring singers and instrumentalists and recently formed the St Bart’s Piano Quartet with players from the LSO with whom she has begun to build a chamber music series where she lives in Sydenham.
Details of Eleanor’s concerts can be found on her website. Eleanor will be performing the CD programme on Saturday 7th February at St John The Evangelist, 1 Sylvan Rd, Upper Norwood, London SE19 2RX – further performances of this “Leipzig Programme” are planned but not fully confirmed at the time of writing.
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