While returning to London from his Scottish sojourn in 1829, Mendelssohn made an excursion to northern Wales, where he visited the family of John Taylor (1779–1863), an English mining engineer who owned a summer residence in Flintshire. (Taylor’s sister, Sarah Austin, was a member of the circle of Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart Mill, and a productive author and translator of German literature.) Playing the English gentleman, Mendelssohn enjoyed hunting, reading Sir Walter Scott, visiting one of Taylor’s mines, and flirting with his three daughters, for whom the composer produced the Trois fantaisies ou caprices
, Op 16. For Anne, he joined a pensive Andante con moto in A minor, with traces of his Scottish style, to a spirited, A major Allegro vivace meant to capture bouquets of Anne’s favourite roses and carnations, with ascending arpeggiations to suggest the wafting scent. Floral imagery also informed the second caprice, for Honora. This E minor Scherzo is propelled by crisp fanfares and light staccato work to represent a creeping vine with trumpet-shaped flowers. And the third caprice, for Susan, whom Mendelssohn described as the ‘prettiest’, gently traced the course of a meandering rivulet that the two encountered during one of their walks.
from notes by R Larry Todd © 2014