Thursday, March 05, 2009
What is it about Felix Mendelssohn that so habitually slips the mind? For most of the 19th century, Mendelssohn was considered the equal of Beethoven and Bach. For much of the 20th, his music was known to at least as many listeners as the Beatles – if not the Anglican hymn O for the Wings of a Dove, then the obligatory Wedding March. His violin concerto is the saccharine test for every virtuoso and his Scottish Symphony is that country’s best-known musical evocation.
Read the whole thing.
Think you can find everything you need online? What if you’re trying to trace a judicial duel held before the French King in 1386?
I had found an entry for a document about the piece of land in question in a manuscripts catalog for the Bibliothèque Nationale and made a note to examine the document the next time I visited Paris. But months later, when I wrote the shelf mark on a call slip for the clerk at the bibliothèque, he looked at it and said, "Ça n'existe pas." A lengthy conversation in French with the curator on duty went nowhere, so I tried again the next day when a different person was working. He explained that the shelf marks in the 19th-century catalog had been superseded and wrote down a new reference number, but once again I was told at the call desk, "Ça n'existe pas."