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LoveMusicPass talks to Stephen Carpenter, Director of Carpenter Holidays

LoveMusicPass talks to Stephen Carpenter, Director of Carpenter Holidays

Mendelssohn in Scotland Holiday – 12 to 18 September 2017

A journey that follows in the footsteps of German composer, Felix Mendelssohn, whose visit to Scotland in 1829 inspired him to write two of his best-loved works, the Hebrides Overture and Scottish Symphony.

 

What gave you the idea of the “Mendelssohn in Scotland” holiday?

I have long been fascinated by Mendelssohn as a composer and as a man whose talent extended to so many other areas, and a few years ago I came across the wonderful sketches that he made on his 1829 tour of Scotland with his travelling companion Karl Klingemann. From the sketches – and there are over 30 of them which are in the Bodleian Library in Oxford – it is possible to retrace exactly the journey that Mendelssohn and Klingemann made, right down to the last waterfall, mountain and loch that they visited. I found the journey so impressive on its own merits – the places they went to are still some of the most beautiful corners of Scotland – coupled with the fact that it was clearly so inspirational to Mendelssohn and resulted in his writing the Overture and Symphony, that I decided to share it with others by creating this “Mendelssohn in Scotland” holiday.

 

Why did Mendelssohn visit Scotland?

In 1829 Mendelssohn was aged 20 and embarked on what was expected of all young men of means at that time: the Grand Tour. The main reason for choosing Scotland was that Mendelssohn and his family were avid readers of the novels of Sir Walter Scott who was all the rage in Europe at the time. It was therefore a natural step to send Felix to the land that inspired Scott’s “historical novels” that they so much admired, and it was also hoped that Felix would meet the great man when he was in Scotland, although it turned out that the visit to Scott’s home in Abbotsford was far from satisfactory as, according to Felix, they “stared at him like fools and lost a whole day for the sake of at best one half-hour of superficial conversation!”

 

What are the highlights of the Mendelssohn in Scotland holiday?

The holiday starts in Edinburgh with a private tour of Holyrood Palace where, in the Abbey, Mendelssohn declared that he “found the beginning of my Scottish Symphony”. After a private tour of Abbotsford where we have a far more cordial welcome than the one that Mendelssohn received, we journey into the Highlands and across to the Hebridean islands of Mull and Staffa to see Fingal’s Cave which had such a deep effect on Mendelssohn when wrote his Hebrides Overture. We also make two deviations from Mendelssohn’s itinerary, visiting a distillery in Pitlochry and taking a trip on the West Highland line from Fort William to Mallaig on a train pulled by the Jacobite steam engine.

 

What feedback have you had from previous Mendelssohn in Scotland holidays?

I have run the holiday several times now including for groups from the UK, USA and Europe and the feedback has been universally positive including “It was a wonderful trip!” and “from now on, listening to Felix Mendelssohn will be entirely different and much more moving and exciting for having had the opportunity to join you in this expedition. It was a stunning tour”, but the last word must go to Mendelssohn who said in a letter from Glasgow on 15 August 1829 at the end of their trip, “We two have been happy, laughing, rhyming, sketching, growling at each other and at the world…eating everything eatable and sleeping for twelve hours every night. We won’t forget it as long as we live.

 

Click here to find details of the 5% discount on the Mendelssohn in Scotland Holiday available for LoveMusicPass members: http://lovemusicpass.org/whats-on/holiday-mendelssohn-in-scotland/

Full details of the Mendelssohn in Scotland Holiday can be found here: http://www.carpenterholidays.com/holiday/mendelssohn-scotland. And a detailed account of Mendelssohn’s journey here: http://mendelssohninscotland.com/.

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