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Hyperion Records

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The Wissower Klinken with view over the sea (c1815) by Caspar David Friedrich (1774-1840)
AKG London
Track(s) taken from CDA67935
Recording details: March 2012
St Michael's Church, Highgate, London, United Kingdom
Produced by Annabel Connellan
Engineered by Ben Connellan
Release date: March 2013
Total duration: 6 minutes 5 seconds

'Immaculate, lightly-pedalled brilliance, unfaltering stylistic assurance, warmth and flexibility … Hyperion's sound and presentation complement Shelley's admirable performances' (Gramophone)

'When Mendelssohn asks for Presto, Shelley takes him at his word, with a fleetness and control that command admiration, not to mention envy. He also brings a wide variety of dynamics and tone, well captured by the recording. I particularly liked the sparsity of his pedalling, leaving the composer's lines to do their work' (BBC Music Magazine)

'Fans of fireworks won't be disappointed, in either the opening Capriccio in F sharp minor or the astonishing bravura finale of the Sonata in E major, both the work of the teenage Mendelssohn. Shelley gives us a further glimpse of the restlessly romantic mind of this wunderkind in the cycle of seven Characterstücke before wrapping us in the warm, gemütlich embrace of Book 1 of the Songs without Words. With playing of this quality this is going to be a series to treasure' (The Observer)

'The Seven Character Pieces, Op 7 … truly reveal the vast range of Mendelssohn's pianistic and compositional language … the programme notes are formidable and provide a veritable fund of information. Hyperion's sound quality is first-rate, as ever … Shelley's playing is faultless, and the clarity he brings to the voice-leading and the vast textures of the 'Fugue' has me listening repeatedly to this track' (International Record Review)

'I enjoyed listening to all these pieces, and thanks to Shelley’s exuberant pianism I am already looking forward to Volume Two' (Financial Times)

'The icing on the cake is that it is only volume one of a complete series. The Op 5 Capriccio is beautifully playful, revealed in astonishing, fluent playing and perfectly captured in Ben and Annabel Connellan's recording, while Shelley reveals the Op 6 Piano Sonata as a piece of real depth … a treasurable album' (International Piano)

'Felix Mendelssohn doesn’t get enough credit for the tremendous craft that underlies his music. And musicians don’t get enough credit for the skill they have to use to make it sound pretty. So hats off to veteran British pianist Howard Shelley for making magic on the start of his Mendelssohn journey. His new album for Britain’s Hyperion label is Felix Mendelssohn, The Complete Solo Piano Music – 1, so there is going to be a lot more brilliant work to come.This album is a treat from beginning to end, with Shelley knowing exactly to turn from showman to gentle tone painter. This is a classic case of an iron fist in a velvet glove, rendering music with elegance and conviction' (Musical Toronto, Canada)

Capriccio in F sharp minor, Op 5
composer
1825

Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
When Gioacchino Rossini heard Mendelssohn play his Capriccio in F sharp minor Op 5 (1825), he mused ‘Ça sent la sonate de Scarlatti’ (‘That has the feeling of a Scarlatti sonata’). Indeed, with its quirky leaps, twisting figurations and register displacements, the Capriccio traces a lineage extending back to Domenico Scarlatti, whose zesty sonatas had been favoured by Muzio Clementi, the teacher of Ludwig Berger, with whom the young Mendelssohn studied piano and, for a while, composition. Formally, the work unfolds in two contrasting sections, alternating as ABAB. The A section features a series of awkwardly expanding leaps and jolting diminished-seventh harmonies, betraying why Mendelssohn referred to Op 5 as his ‘verrücktes Capriccio’ (‘madcap capriccio’). In contrast, the B section is studiously contrapuntal, and pits a sturdy, fugue-like subject against a rushing counter-subject. With Bachian ease, Mendelssohn later manipulates the subject by presenting it upside down in mirror inversion, and eventually in combination with its original form.

from notes by R Larry Todd © 2013

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