The origins of the Rondo capriccioso in E major, Op 14, date to 1824, when Mendelssohn composed an Étude in E minor in his trademark elfin style, with delicate points of imitation and scurrying passagework, but also powerful martellato passages. Then, in 1830, he found a special occasion to revive the work. While visiting Munich en route to Italy and the beginning of his Grand Tour that led him as far south as Paestum, he encountered the talented pianist Delphine von Schauroth (1814–1887), whom he described as ‘slim, blond, blue-eyed, with white hands, and somewhat aristocratic’. The daughter of a noble but impoverished family, Schauroth’s intrusion into Mendelssohn’s life prompted his sisters to begin speculating about her being a potential sister-in-law, and his mother to inquire discreetly about the Schauroths. In Munich the two made a musical exchange: Schauroth penned a lyrical—and Mendelssohnian—Lied ohne Worte
in E major, and Mendelssohn reciprocated by adding to his Étude a lyrical and Lied ohne Worte
-like Andante, also in E major, with a brief transition to the former Étude. Covering up all traces of the recomposition, he described the process as adding ‘sauce and mushrooms’. The finished product appeared later in 1830 in England and 1831 in a German edition as the Rondo capriccioso, and became a favourite virtuoso concert piece of the nineteenth century.
from notes by R Larry Todd © 2014