Recording Date: April 8, 9, & 10 2008
Recorded at Doopsgezinde en Remonstrantse Gemeente, Deventer, by Skarster Music Investment C.V.
Riko Fukuda Played on Fortepianos of the Edwin Beunk Collection
Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy
As was usual for sons of well to do families in the 18th and 19th century, Felix Mendelssohn also left the Berlin parental home in April 1829 and set out on a journey through Europe to broaden his horizon. Even before the summer he and his friend and travel companion Karl Klingemann arrived in Edinburgh and from there they toured Scotland and sailed along the coast. Felix was struck by the wild Scottish sea- and landscapes and made drawings and water colours. But also the Hebrides Ouverture and Symphony no. 3(the Scottish) are memorable fruits.
Before his travels Mendelssohn had already started to compose the Fantasy in F sharp, which is also called Sonata écossaise (Scottish sonata), but only after the three years' tour did he finish and publish it. The work is comprised of three parts andcontinues with the attacca as one big whole.
Sieben Charakterstücke op.7 is an early work of Mendelssohn. He wrote it between 1824 and 1826, at the age of 15 up to 17 and dedicated it to his former piano teacher Ludwig Berger. Not all composer geniuses in musical history show such developed
composition skill and musicality at such an early age as is shown in this piece. We already see the characteristics that Mendelssohn demonstrates in all works made throughout his entire life: lyrical melodies in nos. 1 and 6, restless perpetuum mobile in nos. 2, 4 and 7, and a composition in the style of J.S.Bach in 3 and 5 (Fuga).
After his three years' journey Mendelssohn returned to the parental home in Berlin in June 1832. The following month he ordered a piano by Conrad Graf from Vienna. His specific wish was a grand piano with a compass of 6½ octaves.
The development of the piano in the late 18th century up to the mid 19th century went very fast and its compass increased every time. The piano Felix mother and aunts knew in the days of their youths had a compass of but 5 octaves, the Broadwood grand at his parents' had 6.
He was so pleased with the Graf that he ordered two more within a time span of three years; one for the city of Düsseldorf where he had become General Musical Director and one as a wedding present for his brother's bride.
Although he also received a grand piano as a present from the Erard factory in 1832, his enthusiasm for this make is not registered until 1838. The 1832 instrument did not play easily and after he had sent it back to the factory in 1837 to have it modified, he unexpectedly got offered a new instrument. He described this instrument ‘so full and rich in tone' and praised the Erard quoting Lord Byron, ‘There be none of Beauty's daughters with a magic like Erard's.'
In 1841 the Viennese musical publisher Pietro Mechetti asked a number of ten composers to write a piano work. These works would be published in a volume entitled ‘Dix morceaux brillants' and the proceeds would go to a fund to raise a Beethoven monument in Bonn. Among these composers we find the names of Chopin, Czerny, Kalkbrenner, Liszt and Mendelssohn. At first Mendelssohn was hesitant about this request. He wrote in his letter that he did not have anything befitting the word ‘brillant'. However, a work flowed from his pen that did not bear the title ‘brillant' but ‘Variations sérieuse'. Mendelssohn himself was very enthusiastic about the piece and played it regularly in performances.
Lieder ohne Worte is often looked upon as the essence of Mendelssohn's work. Short pieces and sweet melodies; often playable for amateur pianists; and often endowed with beautiful epithets such as Spinning song. Actually, the composer himself was against this. When Marc-Andre Souchay, his cousin (by marriage) proposed to give a title to all Lieder ohne Worte, Felix answered that he did not think it a good idea. Words evoke different feelings in everybody; they may lead to misunderstandings whereas the musical language is clear and unambiguous. Only three of the total of 42 Lieder carry an original title by the composer: Auf einer Gondel, Duetto and Volkslied. So the title Spinning Song of this opus 67/4 is not original.