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“Ich wollt’ meine Lieb’”

Op. 63, No. 1
Manuscript, 1836

Opochinsky Collection of Music Manuscripts, Irving S. Gilmore Music Library

liede ohne wort liede ohne wort

In addition to his Lieder for solo voice and piano, Mendelssohn composed a number of vocal duets, including the set of six duets that was published in 1844 as Opus 63. The manuscript of the first of these, shown here, dates from 1836, a happy year in Mendelssohn’s life: his oratorio St. Paul had a triumphant premiere in May, and he became engaged to Cécile Jeanrenaud in September. At the time he drafted this duet, though, he was recovering from a sprained foot.

The text is by Heinrich Heine (1797–1856), a witty and cynical romantic poet who inspired Schubert, Schumann, and many other composers. Like Mendelssohn, Heine converted from Judaism to Christianity. He was also a journalist and critic, and as early as 1822, he wrote that Mendelssohn—who was then thirteen—could become a second Mozart. Heine and Mendelssohn crossed paths frequently (especially in the 1820s, when both lived in Berlin), but they seem not to have been close, and Mendelssohn’s father is known to have disapproved of Heine’s radical views.

This manuscript comes from the Gilmore Music Library’s Opochinsky Collection, which contains about 300 musical manuscripts, letters, and other documents written by prominent musicians. They were assembled by David Opochinsky, an engineer whose company, Titra-Film, provides subtitles and dubbing for the movie industry. Opochinsky, who was born in the Polish city of Lódz in 1900, was trained as a violinist at the Moscow Conservatory. (His success in business eventually enabled him to purchase violins by Stradivari and Guarneri.) He also played the piano; in fact, he got his start in the movie business as a pianist for silent films. Opochinsky moved to the United States in 1942, and he began collecting rare music documents in 1950. He died in 1974, and in 1986 his heirs generously donated his collection to Yale University. It includes Mendelssohn’s letter to Carl Klingemann (also on display) as well as compositions, letters, or autographs by C.P.E. Bach, Haydn, Mozart, Schubert, Liszt, Schumann, Tchaikovsky, Dvorák, Grieg, Scriabin, Rachmaninoff, Kreisler, Casals, Bartók, Stokowski, Stravinsky, Berg, Prokofiev, Copland, and many other eminent composers and performers.