Published in 1837, the third volume of Lieder ohne Worte
, Op 38, was among the first works of Mendelssohn to appear after his wedding to Cécile Jeanrenaud, daughter of a French Huguenot minister whose family had settled in Frankfurt. Like Op 30, Op 38 was dedicated to a woman, Rosa von Woringen (sister of Elise). But as in Op 30, several pieces were written for other women, including the pensive No 2, for the soprano Henriette Grabau, and the brilliantly arpeggiated No 3, for the eighteen-year-old Clara Wieck. In a special category by itself was No 6. Titled Duetto, it bore Mendelssohn’s specific instruction to highlight the two melodic voices throughout. Alternating in the soprano and tenor and then joining together, the two voices represented the composer and his fiancée, as he at once penned an intimate love song, but also drew on a tradition extending back to Weber’s Aufforderung zum Tanz
(‘Invitation to the Dance’) and Mozart’s duet ‘Là ci darem la mano’ from Don Giovanni
. Of the other Lieder
, No 4, framed by a short, improvisatory prelude and postlude, is in a homophonic style resembling a part-song. The more extended No 5, in a compound metre and propelled by agitated syncopations, perhaps suggests a ballad reminiscent of Schubert’s Erlkönig
, performed by Mendelssohn with Henriette Grabau in Leipzig in March 1837, only a month before he composed the piano piece.
from notes by R Larry Todd © 2014