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Track(s) taken from CDA67935

Sieben Charakterstücke, Op 7

1824/6; published in 1827

Howard Shelley (piano)
Studio Master FLAC & ALAC downloads available
Studio Master:
Studio Master:
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

Cover artwork: The Wissower Klinken with view over the sea (c1815) by Caspar David Friedrich (1774-1840)
AKG London


'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)
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

Composés séparément entre 1824 et 1826, les Sieben Charakterstücke op. 7 étaient fondus en un recueil, à la manière d’une suite, avant que Mendelssohn les publiât comme autant de pièces de caractère, en 1827, avec, pour définir le climat de chacune, un titre en allemand. Il est évident que Mendelssohn conçut cet opus comme un cycle unifié, en témoignent la séquence tonale (toutes les tonalités avec dièses à la clef, centrées sur mi mineur et majeur) et la répartition des pièces en deux groupes de styles ancien et nouveau. Dans le premier, une invention et une sarabande bachienne (nos 1 et 6) côtoient une fugue de style résolument baroque (nº 3). Quant au second, il réunit trois mouvements de forme sonate «modernes» (nos 2, 4, 7), le lien entre les deux groupes étant assuré par une fugue érudite (nº 5), avec augmentation, diminution et renversement, comme si, remarqua un critique, «le compositeur entendait ouvertement montrer à travers le contrepoint combien il avait étudié avec assiduité et maîtrisé son sujet». Mais malgré toutes ces techniques savantes, l’inspiration de Mendelssohn ne fut peut-être pas tant Bach que Beethoven, dont le finale de la Sonate pour piano op. 110 recèle une absconse fugue en accélération de son cru. Quoi qu’il en soit, Mendelssohn trouva indéniablement son style dans la pièce nº 7, un scherzo véloce dans lequel Robert Schumann, impressionné, vit l’âme sœur de la musique des elfes de l’Ouverture du Songe d’une nuit d’été. La conclusion magique, évanescente de cette pièce fit dire à Hermann Franck: «Tout s’envole en hâte, sans cesse, s’agglomérant en multitudes colorées et se dispersant comme en un souffle.»

extrait des notes rédigées par R Larry Todd © 2013
Français: Hypérion

Die Sieben Charakterstücke op. 7 entstanden jeweils einzeln zwischen 1824 und 1826 und verschmolzen in eine suitenartige Sammlung bevor Mendelssohn sie 1827 als Charakterstücke herausgab und ihnen beschreibende deutsche Titel verlieh, mit denen die jeweilige Stimmung angegeben wurde. Dass Mendelssohn sich die Stücke als einheitlichen Zyklus vorstellte, wird erstens durch die Tonartenabfolge (nur Kreuztonarten, wobei e-Moll und E-Dur im Mittelpunkt stehen) und zweitens durch die Teilung in zwei Werkgruppen deutlich, wobei ältere Stile gegen neuere gestellt sind. In der ersten Gruppe finden sich eine bachische Invention und Sarabande (Nr. 1 und Nr. 6) sowie eine Fuge (Nr. 3), die alle ausgesprochen barock gehalten sind. Der zweiten Gruppe gehören drei „moderne“ Sätze in Sonatenform an (Nr. 2, Nr. 4 und Nr. 7). Verbunden werden diese beiden Gruppen mit einer Fuge im gelehrten Stil (Nr. 5), in der Augmentation, Diminution und Spiegelung vorkommen, als „habe der Componist hiermit öffentlich belegen wollen, wie fleissig er studirt habe, wie er den Stoff durch seinen Contrapunct beherrschte“—so ein Rezensent des Stücks. Doch ist es gut möglich, dass bei all diesen gelehrten Techniken Mendelssohns Inspirationsquelle nicht Bach sondern Beethoven war, der für das Finale seiner Klaviersonate op. 110 eine schwerverständliche, beschleunigende Fuge komponiert hatte. Wie dem auch sei, jedenfalls fand Mendelssohn seinen eigenen Stil in Nr. 7, ein leichtfüßiges Scherzo, das Robert Schumann anerkennend mit der Elfenmusik aus der Sommernachtstraum-Ouvertüre in Verbindung brachte. Zu dem zauberhaften, dahinschwindenden Ende von Nr. 7 bemerkte Hermann Franck: „Alles fliegt eilig rastlos vorüber, wimmelt im bunten Gedränge und zerstiebt wie im Hauche.“

aus dem Begleittext von R Larry Todd © 2013
Deutsch: Viola Scheffel

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