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The Price of AssimilationFelix Mendelssohn and the Nineteenth-Century Anti-Semitic Tradition$
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Jeffrey S. Sposato

Print publication date: 2005

Print ISBN-13: 9780195149746

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2008

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195149746.001.0001

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(p.78) 4 Paulus
The Price of Assimilation

Jeffrey S. Sposato

Oxford University Press

This chapter discusses Felix Mendelssohn' first major oratorio, Paulus or St. Paul. First performed in 1836, Paulus demonstrates Mendelssohn's pattern of increasing the anti-Semitic content in his early sacred works. Mendelssohn rejected many of the less anti-Semitic suggestions of his libretto contributors Julius Furst, Adolf Bernhard Marx, and Julius Schubring, and modified the Biblical story of St. Paul to depict the Jews in a harsher light. Following the death of Mendelssohn's father, Abraham Mendelssohn, in 1835, Mendelssohn softened the anti-Semitic content of the published version of the score. This suggests that Mendelssohn's fear of his Jewish heritage was instilled in him by his father and lessened after his father's death. The chapter also discusses Mendelssohn's cantata Die erste Walpurgisnacht, which mimics Paulus in glorifying the Germanic gentile (or heathen) heritage.

Keywords:   Abraham Mendelssohn, St. Paul, Julius Furst, Adolf Bernhard Marx, Julius Schubring, anti-Semitism, Die erste Walpurgisnacht

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