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Hyperion Records

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Track(s) taken from CDD22020
Recording details: April 1986
Seldon Hall, Haberdashers' Aske's School, Hertfordshire, United Kingdom
Produced by Martin Compton
Engineered by Antony Howell
Release date: October 1987
Total duration: 15 minutes 36 seconds

Lieder ohne Worte I, Op 19b

Other recordings available for download
Howard Shelley (piano)
Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
Mendelssohn is inextricably associated with the genre of the Lied ohne Worte, described by Schumann as an art song abstracted for the piano, with its text deleted. The origins of this new genre are shrouded in some mystery, but it may trace its source to a childhood game the composer played with his elder sister, Fanny—the second child prodigy in the Mendelssohn family—in which the two composed piano pieces and then added texts to them. Mendelssohn’s first datable Lied ohne Worte, written for Fanny, is from 1828, but not until a few years later, in 1832, did he hit upon the idea of publishing a set of piano Lieder as a counterpart to a set of songs. Both were assigned the opus number 19, though today they are distinguished as Op 19a (Sechs Gesänge) and Op 19b (Sechs Lieder ohne Worte).

The six pieces of Op 19b offer keyboard simulations of three vocal types, the solo Lied (Nos 1 and 2), with a treble cantilena supported by an accompaniment below; duet (No 6), in which the melodic line is doubled in thirds or sixths; and part-song (Nos 3 and 4), featuring homophonic textures in chordal style. Two pieces (Nos 3 and 5) are of sufficient length to unfold in miniature sonata forms. The composer left every piece but the last untitled, though No 3, with its pursuing imitative lines and echoing horn calls, impresses as a Jagdlied (‘hunting song’), and No 4, which shares its key and some thematic material with No 3, as a Jägerlied (‘hunters’ song’). The muted No 6, the Venetianisches Gondellied, was the first of several that Mendelssohn composed and so titled, and was inspired by his visit to Venice in 1830. Its blurry pedal effects and gently undulating cross-rhythms magically conjure up the romantic allure of the Venetian lagoons.

Mendelssohn issued Op 19b and subsequent sets of Lieder ohne Worte in parallel German, French and English editions. In Paris the pieces first appeared as Romances sans paroles, and in England as Original Melodies for the Piano. The composer never used the now prevalent translation Songs without Words, nor did he authorize other descriptive titles fitted to the pieces in later editions, for example ‘Sweet Remembrance’ (No 1), ‘Regrets’ (No 2), and ‘Restlessness’ (No 5). Largely the whims of publishers, these accretions ran counter to Mendelssohn’s own aesthetic, to let the individual Lieder stand by themselves, and to trust the precision of musical expression over the ambiguities of words.

from notes by R Larry Todd İ 2013

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