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The Mendelssohn Project at the Magnes

Photo of Nick Mathew by piano

Professor Nick Mathew with the Erard piano at the Schumann Bicentennial in Hertz Hall

Spring 2016 marks the opening and launch of the Mendelssohn Project at the Magnes Collection of Jewish Art and Life. One exhibition, two historic pianos, and fourteen lectures/performances sponsored by the Office of the Dean of Arts and Humanities, the Departments of History and Music, and the Magnes Collection. An exhibit curated by Francesco Spagnolo, “From Mendelssohn To Mendelssohn” reawakens 18th-century intercultural dialogs and the history of the Mendelssohn family in a salon-like setting animated by Oppenheim’s painting, Lavater and Lessing Visits Moses Mendelssohn (1865), ritual, art, paints, books and manuscripts from the Magnes Collection and the Erard piano, a historic piano on loan from UC Berkeley’s Department of Music. Built in 1854, it is a seven-octave grand piano, approximately eight feet long. In 2001, Charles Rus, organist at the Episcopal Church of Saint John the Evangelist, San Francisco, purchased the piano from a moving and storage company where it had been abandoned by its previous owner. In the spring of 2007, Rus sold the piano to the Department of Music of the University of California at Berkeley.

Performances by Music’s Professors Nicholas Mathew and James Davies with students and instructors from the pianism seminar are scheduled, as well as a lecture by curator Carla Shapreau on Researching the Provenance of Lavater and Lessing with Moses Mendelssohn take place in March. The UCB Symphony Orchestra conducted by David Milnes is performing a program that includes Mendelssohn’s Symphony No. 5 “Reformation” take place March 11, 12, and 13th in Hertz Hall. Opening events on January 26 included gallery tours accompanied by Mendelssohn’s Songs Without Words, performed on the Wieck grand piano in rosewood (no. 819. Dresden, Ca. 1860), another historic piano loaned by the Music Department.

All programs are free and open to the public. The exhibition takes place from January 26 to April 24, every Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday & Friday, 11am to 4pm, at the Magnes (2121 Allston Way, Berkeley). More information: