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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: 27 minutes 21 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)

Sieben Charakterstücke, Op 7
composer
1824/6; published in 1827

Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
Composed separately between 1824 and 1826, the Sieben Charakterstücke Op 7 coalesced into a suite-like collection before Mendelssohn issued them in 1827 as character pieces, providing German descriptive titles to designate the mood of each piece. That Mendelssohn conceived of the opus as a unified cycle is clear firstly from the sequence of keys (all sharp keys, centering on E minor and major), and secondly from the division into two types of pieces, pitting older against newer styles. The first type includes a Bachian invention and sarabande (Nos 1 and 6) and a fugue in a decidedly baroque style (No 3). The second type offers three ‘modern’ sonata-form movements (Nos 2, 4 and 7). Bridging the two is an erudite fugue (No 5), replete with augmentation, diminution and mirror inversion, as if, as one reviewer noted, ‘the composer wished to demonstrate openly how diligently he had studied and mastered his subject through counterpoint’. But for all the learned techniques, Mendelssohn’s inspiration may well have been not Bach but Beethoven, who had produced a recondite acceleration fugue of his own in the finale of the Piano Sonata Op 110. Be that as it may, Mendelssohn unquestionably found his own voice in No 7, a fleet-footed scherzo that impressed Robert Schumann as a kindred spirit to the elves’ music in the Overture to A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The magical, evanescent ending of No 7 led Hermann Franck to comment: ‘All flies past hastily, without rest, gathering together in colorful throngs, and then scattering in a puff.’

from notes by R Larry Todd © 2013

Other albums featuring this work
'Harold Bauer – The complete recordings' (APR7302)
Harold Bauer – The complete recordings
'Hyperion monthly sampler – March 2013' (HYP201303)
Hyperion monthly sampler – March 2013
HYP201303  Download-only monthly sampler   No longer available
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