Mendelssohn manuscript found in a street market

Mendelssohn manuscript found in a street market


norman lebrecht

February 09, 2019

From the University of Leeds:

How did a church organist from Sheffield amass the largest private collection of Mendelssohn material in Europe?

“Gather them in”: the Musical Treasures of W.T. Freemantle at the University’s Treasures of the Brotherton Gallery, tells the undiscovered story of a passionate collector and the musical masters he admired.

Opening on Friday 1 March and running until the end of July, the exhibition is guest-curated by Dr Bryan White from the School of Music at Leeds University.

It builds on new research and brings to light the untold story of Freemantle’s significant musical collection. Dr White said: ‘Freemantle’s love for collecting was spurred by a visit to the market in Sheffield, where he unwittingly bought his first Mendelssohn manuscript. His passion became so strong that he said he would ‘endure martyrdom in Siberia’ if it would get him collectables he most desired.’

On display are previously unseen musical manuscripts and personal letters of Felix Mendelssohn. The exhibition also illuminates Felix’s often overlooked sister Fanny. A copy of Fanny’s last composition, the song ‘Bergeslust’, forms part of the exhibition. The piece was written the day before her sudden death in 1847.

Freemantle was a church organist and teacher from Sheffield. His passion for collecting led to him amassing the largest amount of Mendelssohn material outside the composer’s own family. Of his first find, he said: ‘my blood had heated, my pulse had quickened […] Oh! That bundle of music! I was now indeed an autograph collector.’



  • Luigi Nonono says:

    It is sad that so much important music is in private hands and can be easily lost. It is particularly taking a toll on more-marginal music, the kind that is not easily published. Many important works have disappeared, either by being hidden in private collections, or destroyed or lost. What of Wanda Landowska’s library that was seized by the Nazis? Or Magnard’s manuscripts that must have been destroyed when he was burned alive in his house by German soldiers? And the many Jewish composers murdered in the Holocaust and after?

    • fflambeau says:

      Why is it sad? In this case, and in many others, the acts of private collectors led to the preservation, not the destruction of music. Mendelssohn, of course, was Jewish, and Nazi Germany banned and destroyed many of his works. So be thankful.

    • For every item lost because it was in a private collector’s hands, probably more is saved by private collectors. They are the ones who start saving things long before the experts decide they are worthy of attention.