Composers Datebook®

Mendelssohn and Prince Albert

Composers Datebook - July 9, 2024


On this date in 1842, Felix Mendelssohn presented himself at Buckingham Palace in London as the invited guest of Queen Victoria and the royal consort, Prince Albert. In 1842, Victoria was not the plump matron so familiar from later portraits, but a slim woman of 23. Elegant Prince Albert, a fine amateur musician and composer of some charming songs, was the same age. Mendelssohn himself was 33, although the 20-something Queen wrote in her diary that she thought he looked  “a bit older.”

Mendelssohn played some of his Songs Without Words and improvised on “Rule Britannia” and the Austrian National Anthem. Victoria and Albert were impressed, so Mendelssohn was invited back for more visits.

Victoria presented him with a ring engraved “V.R. 1842”—the initials standing for “Victoria Regina.” In return, Mendelssohn dedicated to her his newly completed Symphony No. 3, the Scottish Symphony, a work he had begun many years earlier during a walking tour of Scotland during his first visit to Britain. Curiously, although this Scottish Symphony was the fifth and final of Mendelssohn's symphonies to be completed, it was the third to be published, and so has subsequently been known as Symphony No. 3.

Music Played in Today's Program

Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847): Symphony No. 3 (Scottish); London Symphony Orchestra; John Eliot Gardiner, conductor; LSO 765

On This Day


  • 1879 - Italian composer Ottorino Respighi, in Bologna

  • 1915 - American composer David Diamond, in Rochester, New York

  • 1938 - Japanese-American composer Paul Chihara, in Seattle


  • 1747 - Italian opera composer, Giovanni Bonocini, 76, in Vienna; He was the famous (and unsuccessful) rival of Handel's for the favor of the opera-loving public in London

  • 1960 - American composer Edward Burlington Hill, 87, in Francesrtown, New Hampshire

  • 1984 - American composer and teacher Randall Thompson, 85, in Boston


  • 1957 - Hartmann: opera Simplicius Simplicissimus (revised version), in Mannheim at the Nationaltheater. This opera was premiered in a concert version in Munich by the Bavarian Radio on April 2, 1948.

  • 1969 - Lennox Berkeley: Symphony No. 3, in Cheltenham, England

  • 2001 - Steven Stucky: Three Little Pieces for David, for piano (written for the 65th birthday of conductor David Zinman), by Yefim Bronfman at the Aspen Music Festival in Colorado

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About Composers Datebook®

Host John Birge presents a daily snapshot of composers past and present, with timely information, intriguing musical events and appropriate, accessible music related to each.

He has been hosting, producing and performing classical music for more than 25 years. Since 1997, he has been hosting on Minnesota Public Radio's Classical Music Service. He played French horn for the Cincinnati Symphony and Pops Orchestra and performed with them on their centennial tour of Europe in 1995. He was trained at the Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, Eastman School of Music and Interlochen Arts Academy.

About Composers Datebook®