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Mendelssohn's neglected masterpieces? (Read 6984 times)

Offline pianoloverus

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Mendelssohn's neglected masterpieces?
« on: December 22, 2001, 09:37:23 PM »
I find SOME of Mendelssohns's Songs without Words incredibly beautiful and moving despite their often very simple harmony. I have become especially enamored of #12(Venetian Boat Song), #18(Duetto-until recently, my favorite), #20, #25(May Breezes), #32(my current favorite), #40(Elegy), and #47. I once attended one of Jeffrey Siegel's Keyboard Conversations where he began the concert by playing #30(Spring Song) and then asked the audience whether they thought the piece was terrific or a piece of schlock . The audience was about equally divided their opinion. What do you think about Mendelssohn's Songs without Words? Do you think any of them can stand beside the Chopin Preludes, Debussey Preludes, or Brahms Intermezzi?
Does anyone know the "names" of the ones I've listed above with only their number?

Sheet music to download and print: Songs Without Words by Mendelssohn



Offline musik_man

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Re: Mendelssohn's neglected masterpieces?
«Reply #1 on: December 23, 2001, 10:13:08 PM »
My favorites are the spinning song and no4

They are better than Debussy preludes and Brahm's Intermezzi, but Chopin's preludes just kick ***. ::)
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Offline Hector_the_Crow

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Re: Mendelssohn's neglected masterpieces?
«Reply #2 on: December 24, 2001, 08:54:57 PM »
I learned Mendelssohn's Venetian Boat Song last month. My favourite of the "Songs without Words" that I've heard. And yes, Chopin's preludes just kick ***.

[Evidently, you can't even say  a_s_s_  or  d_a_m_n  on this forum. Am I in some Christian boarding school here? Those words are pretty far down on the profanity scale.]

Offline franklin

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Re: Mendelssohn's neglected masterpieces?
«Reply #3 on: February 04, 2002, 06:17:04 AM »
chopins preludes do just kick.  i had the chance to hear all of them in concert today.  

Offline rachfan

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Re: Mendelssohn's neglected masterpieces?
«Reply #4 on: January 19, 2003, 11:03:58 PM »
When he auditioned a prospective pupil, Anton Rubinstein, would insist that the pianist first play a couple of Mendelssohn's Songs without Words.  His theory was that many of the songs are so simple and honest in their intent, that it makes them extremely difficult to perform well, and that any shortcomings of the performer would become glaringly apparent in these seemingly easy pieces.  He was probably right.

I've played 15 or so in my time, and enjoyed them.... BUT not to the extent of learning and playing Chopin, Liszt, Schumann, and Brahms.  My criticism is that Mendelssohn's writing sometimes seems superficial, even banal.  He doesn't share the same complexity and depth of inventiveness--or achieve the same beauty of sound-- as the others.   Influenced by Weber, he definitely had a thing for velocity though, a la the Fantasies, Caprices, Scherzi, etc.  Yet everytime I listen to those pieces, they are never memorable for me somehow.  They remind me of pinwheels at the 4th of July that eventually go dark and are undifferentiated one from the other.   Some of his writing strikes me as salon music, given the simplistic harmonies.  The Variations and Preludes & Fugues do not share those charateristics, fortunately.  

When I've read commentators comparing Mendelssohn to the other romantic composers, he seems to be judged in retrospect as not quite being in the same league.  I believe part of it is lack of suffering.  Chopin (love, terminal illness), Brahms (the artist's struggle) and Schumann (depression) all suffered in different ways, and could bring those feelings into their composing.  Even Liszt was at war with himself sometimes, e.g., earthly love vs. devotion to God and religion.  Conversely, Mendelssohn was well to do, lived a most orderly and meticulous life, and until Fanny's death, suffered no tragedies of note.  I surmise that that's why his music lacks those great moments of anguish and triumph that his contemporaries could create so naturally that so captivate the listener.   So I believe that Mendelssohn retains an important place in the pantheon of romantic composers, but not so lofty a position as the others.

Interpreting music means exploring the promise of the potential of possibilities.

Offline hodi

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Re: Mendelssohn's neglected masterpieces?
«Reply #5 on: March 25, 2005, 12:30:05 AM »
IMO  a person doesn't have to suffer in order to create music.. he doesn't have to have tragedies to be able to compose, and that's what u say, RachFan..
mendelssohn's music is so fantastic, it always reminds me of elves,fairies and other fantasy creatures..

Offline presto agitato

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Re: Mendelssohn's neglected masterpieces?
«Reply #6 on: March 25, 2005, 01:18:13 AM »
When I've read commentators comparing Mendelssohn to the other romantic composers, he seems to be judged in retrospect as not quite being in the same league.  I believe part of it is lack of suffering.  Chopin (love, terminal illness), Brahms (the artist's struggle) and Schumann (depression) all suffered in different ways, and could bring those feelings into their composing.  Even Liszt was at war with himself sometimes, e.g., earthly love vs. devotion to God and religion.  Conversely, Mendelssohn was well to do, lived a most orderly and meticulous life, and until Fanny's death, suffered no tragedies of note.  I surmise that that's why his music lacks those great moments of anguish and triumph that his contemporaries could create so naturally that so captivate the listener.   So I believe that Mendelssohn retains an important place in the pantheon of romantic composers, but not so lofty a position as the others.



I dont share you opinion.

Yes , Schubert was a poor devil and Mendelssohn was a child prodigy, a rich boy, a piano virtuoso, he spoke five languages, he traveled around Europe, he rediscovered Bach´s music etc etc...So i dont see what is the difference because they both wrote the BEST music ever.

"His music lacks those great moments of anguish and triumph that his contemporaries could create so naturally that so captivate the listener" 
Good Joke ˇˇˇ
I think you havent heard many Mendelssohn´s works otherwise you wouldnt say such words. Mendelssohn was a complete composer, he didnt write only for the piano (As Chopin or Liszt did).


Schumann called Mendelssohn the Mozart of the nineteenth century. "I look upon Mendelssohn," he said, "as the first musician of his time, and pay him the homage due to a master."
The masterpiece tell the performer what to do, and not the performer telling the piece what it should be like, or the cocomposer what he ought to have composed.

--Alfred Brendel--

Offline presto agitato

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Re: Mendelssohn's neglected masterpieces?
«Reply #7 on: March 25, 2005, 01:23:27 AM »
Does anyone know the "names" of the ones I've listed above with only their number?

Num 20 "The Fleecy Cloud"
Num 32 "Lost Illusions"
Num 47 "The Joyous Peasant"

You cant compate Songs Without Words with Chopin´s Preludes or Brahms Intermezzi. They are very different works IMO.

BTW My favorites are Op 19-1 Op 19-2  Op 30-6  and Op 85- 2

The masterpiece tell the performer what to do, and not the performer telling the piece what it should be like, or the cocomposer what he ought to have composed.

--Alfred Brendel--

Offline shasta

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Re: Mendelssohn's neglected masterpieces?
«Reply #8 on: March 25, 2005, 01:21:09 PM »
19/5 - "Restlessness" is my fav
"self is self"   - i_m_robot

Offline pianowelsh

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Re: Mendelssohn's neglected masterpieces?
«Reply #9 on: March 25, 2005, 05:25:58 PM »
they definately stand up to the works of Chopin and Debussy etc - they are fantastic miniatures and wonderfull piano writing! :D

Offline beethoartok

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Re: Mendelssohn's neglected masterpieces?
«Reply #10 on: March 26, 2005, 06:31:22 PM »
No one's mentioned Mendelssohn's Fantasy in F# minor, Op.28 !!

Offline Allan

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Re: Mendelssohn's neglected masterpieces?
«Reply #11 on: March 26, 2005, 08:36:02 PM »
I recently learned the last two movements from Mendelssohn's Organ Sonata No. 1.  The last movement is very fast and pianistic in texture.  His sonatas for organ really kick.  He was a terrific composer.

Offline hodi

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Re: Mendelssohn's neglected masterpieces?
«Reply #12 on: March 26, 2005, 09:22:26 PM »
No one's mentioned Mendelssohn's Fantasy in F# minor, Op.28 !!

yes! this is the most underrated piece ever!
it's my favorite piano piece ever.. really.. especially the first movement

Offline apion

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Re: Mendelssohn's neglected masterpieces?
«Reply #13 on: March 27, 2005, 04:50:03 AM »
IMO  a person doesn't have to suffer in order to create music.. he doesn't have to have tragedies to be able to compose, and that's what u say, RachFan..
mendelssohn's music is so fantastic, it always reminds me of elves,fairies and other fantasy creatures..

I think a person must experience anguishing adversity to be able to write "DEEP" music.

Offline IanT

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Re: Mendelssohn's neglected masterpieces?
«Reply #14 on: March 28, 2005, 03:46:55 AM »
I love most of the Songs Without Words although there are a couple I could live without - 7 is a bit sappy and I don't like Duetto, probably because of all the abuse I heaped upon it in my youth. 

Barenboim's recording of the complete set is really good (just in case you're looking for a recording).

One great piano piece that doesn't get heard very often is Rachmaninoff's transcription of the Scherzo from Mendelssohn's Midsummer Night's Dream.  It's not really a Mendelssohn piano piece but Rach's transcription is very effective (hard though!).

Ian