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CD Review

Felix Mendelssohn

  • Concert Piece for Clarinet, Basset Horn & Piano #1 in F Major, Op. 113
  • Concert Piece for Clarinet, Basset Horn & Piano #2 in D minor, Op. 114
  • Sonata for Clarinet & Piano in E Flat Major
  • Rondo capriccioso for Piano in E Major, Op. 14
  • Song Without Words in F Major, Volume 4, Op. 53 #4
  • Song Without Words in a minor, Volume 5, Op. 62 #5, "Venetian Gondola Song"
  • Song Without Words in A Major, Volume 5, Op. 62 #6, "Spring Song"
  • Song Without Words in F Sharp minor, Volume 6, Op. 67 #2
  • Song Without Words in C Major, Volume 6, Op. 67 #4, "Spinning Song"
  • Song Without Words: Venetian gondola
  • 17 Variations Sérieuses for Piano in D minor, Op. 54
Alan Hacker, clarinets
Richard Burnett, pianos
Lesley Schatzberger, basset horns
Amon Ra CD-SAR38 73m DDD
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This disc is a joy for a multitude of reasons, but maybe its most outstanding feature is the inclusion of the three works that Mendelssohn composed for clarinet and basset horn. The most youthful piece of this programme is the sonata in E Flat Major written when the composer was only 15 years old, and although it has, inevitably, a few academic passages, the work is full of sparkling moments that reveal Mendelssohn's genius in a most assertive manner.

The two Konzertstück were composed in 1832 for th great clarinet virtuoso Heinrich Baermann and his son Carl. Vigorous and exciting, they make compelling listening, and the unjust neglect they have suffered is mystifying indeed. Maybe the sound of the basset horn was never as appealing as that of other instruments. The piano works in contrast, are among the most popular pieces of this composer, and their limpid beauty has remained undimmed since the day they were penned.

The 1833 'Rondo' is by right, one of Mendelssohn's best known pieces and its juvenile ardour still manages to cast a spell on the listener. The Venetian Gondola Songs embrace some of the composer's most beguiling and evocative melodies, while the strength of the Variations Serieuses' lies in the beautiful and poignant theme which is not only extremely dramatic but also exploits the whole range of the classical piano in a thoroughness that smacks of perfection.

Hearing these jewels performed on original instruments is a fascinating experience and all three soloists play their hearts out in trying to present them in as an authentic way as possible. An unusual encounter with one of history's most famous composers in excellent sound and adequate annotations.

Copyright © 2006, Gerald Fenech