HOME
ABOUT
BROWSE CDs
ARTISTS
COMPOSERS
NEWSLETTER
CONTACT
 

 

 

 

 



MENDELSSOHN: COMPLETE SONGS
Malcolm Martineau

 

 

 
1. Mendelssohn, Felix [03:15]
Scheidend Op.9 No.6

2. Mendelssohn, Felix [03:02]
Reiselied Op.19 No.6

3. Mendelssohn, Felix [02:12]
Morgengruss Op.47 No.2

4. Mendelssohn, Felix [01:27]
An die entfernte Op.71 No.3

5. Mendelssohn, Fanny [02:42]
Heimweh Op.8 No.2

6. Mendelssohn, Felix [02:03]
Wanderlied Op.57 No.6

7. Mendelssohn, Felix [02:21]
Fruhlingsnacht Op.8 No.6

8. Mendelssohn, Felix [02:32]
Das erste veilchen Op.19 No.2

9. Mendelssohn, Felix [02:04]
Im Fruhling Op.9 No.4

10. Mendelssohn, Felix [03:03]
Fruhlingslied Op.34 No.3

11. Mendelssohn, Felix [02:37]
Fruhlingslied Op.47 No.3

12. Mendelssohn, Felix [01:18]
Lied sum gerburtstage

13. Mendelssohn, Felix [01:49]
Seltsam mutter gehr es mir

14. Mendelssohn, Felix [02:51]
Sanft weh'n im hauch der abedluft

15. Mendelssohn, Felix [02:55]
Weihnachtslied

16. Mendelssohn, Felix [03:13]
Erntalied Op.8 No.4

17. Mendelssohn, Felix [01:54]
Pilgerspruch Op.8 No.5

18. Mendelssohn, Felix [02:02]
Maienlied Op.8 No.7

19. Mendelssohn, Felix [02:35]
Altdeutches Lied Op.57 No.1

20. Mendelssohn, Felix [02:35]
Jagdlied Op.84 No.3

21. Mendelssohn, Felix [01:18]
Fruhlingslied Op.19 No.1

22. Mendelssohn, Felix [02:23]
Hut du dich

23. Mendelssohn, Felix [01:56]
6 Duets Op.63 - i - Ich wollt' meine lieb' ergosse sich

24. Mendelssohn, Felix [02:20]
6 Duets Op.63 - ii - Abschied der zugvogel

25. Mendelssohn, Felix [02:15]
6 Duets Op.63 - iii - Gross wohin ich geh' und schaue

26. Mendelssohn, Felix [02:01]
6 Duets Op.63 - iv - Herbstlied Ach wie so bald verhallet der reigen

27. Mendelssohn, Felix [02:13]
6 Duets Op.63 - v - Volkslied O sah' ich auf der haide dort im sturme dich

28. Mendelssohn, Felix [02:02]
6 Duets Op.63 - vi - Maiglockchen und die blumelein

Artist(s):
Malcolm Martineau,
Sophie Bevan,
Mary Bevan,
Robin Tritschler, tenor
Benjamin Appl, baritone
Jonathan McGovern, baritone
Allan Clayton, tenor


Champs Hill Records is delighted that Malcolm Martineau will be curating a series of Mendelssohn vocal releases presenting songs by Felix and Fanny Mendelssohn alongside each other.
There is a need to show �how unjustly neglected (Felix) Mendelssohn is as a song composer... He can provide sunshine like no-�one else in his Spring songs but he can also plumb the depths of emotion in his settings of Goethe and Eichendorff in songs like Die Liebende schreibt and Nachtlied. Many of his darker songs can stand proudly beside the greatest songs of Schumann.�
There is also a continued need to promote the music of his sister Fanny on its own merits, much more than just copies of Felix�s style, born from her own relationships with poets including Heinrich Heine and Friederike Robert.
For this first release he has gathered together a wealth of imaginative young vocal talent in Sophie Bevan, Robin Tritschler, Jonathan McGovern, Mary Bevan, Allan Clayton and Benjamin Appl.
The disc aims to show the rich variety and distinctive voice of Mendelssohn in these songs.
Malcolm Martineau and his singers explore five themes: Songs of journeys, departures and greetings from afar, Songs of Spring, The boy Mendelssohn, Antique strains and voices from yesteryear, and a set of duets.


 

 


INTRODUCTION

Until recently, the songs of Felix and Fanny Hensel were subjected to threefold diminishment or outright damnation: first, anti-Semitism did its best to decry the originality of artists born Jewish, certain critics dismissed the songs as Victorian parlour music without the depths of a Schubert or Schumann, and Fanny Hensel was consigned to the special obscurity designated for 19th-century women who sought composition as their vocation. In addition, her works were often wrongly described as carbon copies of her brother�s style when in fact, she has a complex voice of her own now being properly recognised. With the dark clouds of history in abeyance, both scholarly and recording projects such as this one are paying homage to the many- splendoured songs created by a brother�sister pair like none other.

SONGS OF JOURNEYS, DEPARTURES AND GREETINGS FROM AFAR

Given a cultivated, well-to-do family, the Mendelssohns, especially Felix, were able to travel, and journeys are a frequent theme in the poetic texts they chose for songs. The twelve songs of Op.9, like those of Op.8, were published in two Hefte, or little volumes, the first entitled �The Youth� and songs 7-12 entitled �The Maiden�. Scheidend is the last song in the first booklet; in this gentle barcarolle, the persona welcomes leaving home, past sorrows, and youth behind in order to journey to �a distant land� � terrestrial or celestial? After the calm beginning, tensions appear at the invocation of sorrow and only dissolve back to tranquillity at the end of each stanza. The Op.19 setting of the German-Bohemian poet Egon Ebert�s Reiselied is more agitated: the journeying persona bids the waters carry his ardent messages back to the beloved. Mendelssohn underscores the difference between present sorrows and past forgetfulness of pain with near-savage accents and a high pitch on the word �Schmerzen� (sorrows) that we hear as almost a shriek.

Both Felix and Fanny knew the great poet Heinrich Heine personally, and Fanny distrusted him in any capacity not poetic. �Heine is here, and I do not like him at all, he is so affected�, she wrote to Karl Klingemann in 1829. And yet, � ... though for ten times you may be inclined to despise him, the eleventh time you cannot help confessing that he is a poet, a true poet!� Her brother�s Morgengruss tells us that Felix understood Heine�s distinctive irony but sought to temper it. Here, Heine combines the Romantic themes of a lover�s farewell and a morning serenade beneath her window in order to stick pins in both traditions: she doesn�t hear him, and the lover consoles himself by insisting that surely she dreams of him. Mendelssohn�s persona, sweeter than the poet�s, repeats his farewell � to no avail � and insists over and over again on himself as the subject of her dreams.

An die Entfernte is one of Felix�s final works, composed against the backdrop of his grief over Fanny�s death on May 14, 1847. Lenau�s poetic imagery of withered roses and a beloved woman far away, the poet�s exhortation not to journey away from love, produced this tender gem, in which Mendelssohn lingers at the end on the �sweet sound� of the nightingale�s song lingering on the west wind.

Fanny�s setting of her talented, beautiful friend Friederike Robert�s poem Das Heimweh is our first song by her on this series. Fanny�s strophic setting of Friederike�s poem (Heine called �Rike� �a cousin of the Venus de Milo�), part impassioned outcry, part diagnostic manual on the physical effects of homesickness, already conveys a different approach to song composition than her brother�s; witness the chromatic complexities of the initial phrase, typical of her style.

One of the poets most beloved by 19th-century composers was Joseph von Eichendorff, who held fast to Romanticism while history � the Industrial Revolution, the increasing displacement of aristocratic power by modern bureaucracies � moved past him. In his sonorous verse, a small repertory of recurring words � �Fr�hling� (spring), �Grund� (ground), �Haus� (house), �Stimmen� (voices), �Wald� (forest), and more � act as mutable ciphers for a cosmos made magical by the power of poetry. In the Wanderlied, a young Romantic poet is lured into the wide world of poetic imagery, with no idea where the journey will lead him: this is Romanticism in a nutshell, its ecstasy given sounding life in Mendelssohn�s setting.

SONGS OF SPRING

Of all 19th-century composers, Felix Mendelssohn was perhaps the most addicted to spring songs, and we hear six of them � there are more � on this first disc. The Fr�hlingslied, Op.8, No.6, is a setting of a poem in Swabian dialect by Friederike Robert, who was for a brief while tutored by the Romantic writer Justinus Kerner in Swabia. We hear springtime delight in the exultant octave leaps at the end of the first phrase for stanzas 1 and 2, also in the bird-song trills and flourishes for the piano throughout the second stanza.

The bouquet of violets at the end of Fr�hlingslied is our link to Das erste Veilchen on a poem by a prolific Bohemian writer named Egon Ebert. Time moves swiftly in this finely wrought song: in the first half, the persona joyfully hails the first violet of spring, and the music ascends in stages to springtime ecstasy. When the violet dies, surrounded by summer�s blossoms, the narrator first calls for an evocative silence, then brings the flower and its music back to life in a dream of spring.

Im Fr�hling from Op.9 on a poem by the Mendelssohns� tutor and friend Johann Gustav Droysen (he was only a year older than Felix) has all the ingredients of a classic Mendelssohn spring song: rustling motion; rising lines to tell of rising excitement; throbbing chords to underscore springtime ecstasy; and key words prolonged in the vocal line while the piano moves delightedly underneath (�s�ss�/sweet, �sehnt�/yearns).

Johann Heinrich Voss (the �German Homer�) was principally famed for his translations of the Illiad and the Odyssey into German, but he wrote original poetry as well, including the irresistible Im Gr�nen. Mendelssohn sets this paean to the outdoors as the essence of Schwung (lilt) and thrumming springtime vitality, with a fanfare in the piano at the start and the repeated vaults into the high treble for the singer that are one hallmark of a Mendelssohnian spring song.

The diplomat�poet Karl Klingemann, who was both a better-than-average dilettante composer and an amateur poet, was another friend who supplied Fanny and Felix with texts. May every springtime be announced by Mendelssohn�s irresistible dotted fanfares in the bass line of this Fr�hlingslied; each of the three stanzas ends with the same refrain about �an old, sweet dream�, and for that brief moment, springtime vivacity gives way to hints of minor mode (to tell of distance in time) and a touch of soft solemnity. With the Fr�hlingslied from Op.47, we again encounter Lenau, whose more characteristic �Weltschmerz� (world-weariness) gives way to pulsating, utterly joyous love in spring. Mendelssohn pairs stanzas 1 and 2 to make a musical strophe, repeated for stanzas 3�4 and 5�6; the rise to an ecstatic high pitch for �the full dance of life�, �a sweet song of hope�, and �the power of spring� are made unforgettable in this, one of the most famous of all spring songs.

THE BOY MENDELSSOHN

It was not until 2008 that many of the young Felix�s songs were first published, including the charmingly na�ve Lied zum Geburtstage meines guten Varters, composed as a gift for Abraham Mendelssohn on his birthday in December 1819: this is Felix�s first extant song. The existence of Seltsam, Mutter, geht es mir only became known in 2007, when it appeared for sale in a Sotheby�s catalogue; it was part of a manuscript inscribed by its recipient Agnes Rauch (1804�1881), later godmother to Fanny�s son Sebastian. The text comes from Johann Amadeus Wendt�s Taschenbuch zum geselligen Vergn�gen auf das Jahr 1819 (Pocketbook for Companionable Pleasures for the Year 1819), where it was entitled �Die B�uerin�/The Peasant Woman; a young woman cannot quite fully confess to her mother the strange feelings � easily decoded as hints of first love � she has harboured since the last year�s fair.

Sanft weh�n im Hauch der Abendluft is a setting of a characteristic poem by Friedrich von Matthisson, whose single volume of poems � first published in 1787 and reprinted many times thereafter � was praised by Schiller for its melancholy sweetness and tender descriptions of Nature. At the beginning, Matthisson invokes grasses gently waving in the soft springtime breeze and only then reveals that Nature thus caresses the grave of

a child. Near the end of Felix�s setting, we hear the influence of Baroque music (passed from Johann Friedrich Fasch to Carl Friedrich Zelter to Felix) when the grief-stricken parents sing of wandering without surcease through the world�s chaos. The vocal line is like a chorale cantus firmus beneath which the piano sinks by degrees to a hymn-like ending. We can also hear the enduring impress of 18th-century music on the Weihnachtslied, which begins and ends with a Bach-like tolling pitch in the bass and sounds different permutations of the opening melodic figure throughout different levels of the texture.

ANTIQUE STRAINS AND VOICES FROM YESTERYEAR

Felix�s Erntelied is a darkly beautiful strophic song � chorale, folksong, and antique church modes are all mimicked here � about Death the inexorable reaper who mows down all the lovely flowers/people. At the end, dread becomes joy, with defiantly full harmonization replacing the stark unison texture of earlier passages, but the darkness of Mendelssohn�s music at the end tells us that the fear of death is not so easily overcome.

The great 17th-century physician�poet Paul Fleming was famed both for secular love poetry and religious verse, with Pilgerspruch among the latter. In this cross between a hymn and an art-song, Mendelssohn repeats and extends the final line of each stanza in order to drive home the poet�s message: do not succumb to sorrow; stand fast, and know that God�s will is best.

Four centuries before Fleming, the medieval Minnesinger (singer of courtly love) Jakob von Wart, who appears in the Manesse Codex � a compendium of Minnesong � sang of the contrast between springtime beauty and a lovelorn persona distant from his sweetheart (an antique poetic theme) in Maienlied. Another Minnesinger, Heinrich der tugendhafte Schreiber (Henry the Virtuous Scribe), who also appears in the Manesse Codex, provided Mendelssohn with the text of his Altdeutsches Lied, a mostly gentle lament, albeit with brief admixtures of passionate protest, by a persona who compares the futility of his complaints to his beloved with nightingales whose forest songs are not heard.

The �hunt or chase of love� is the subject of a famous folk poem from a famous anthology: Jagdlied (�Mit Lust t�t ich ausreiten�) from Des Knaben Wunderhorn (The Youth�s Magic Horn of 1805�1808, edited by Clemens Brentano and Achim von Arnim). Mendelssohn fills the piano accompaniment to this song with traditional hunting horn calls that echo and re-echo through the musical forest. A statesman and a poet, Ulrich von Lichtenstein, famous for his Frauendienst (In the Service of Women), compares the blossoming forth of spring in yet another Fr�hlingslied to the blossoming of his spirit when he thinks of his lady�s goodness. In contrast, the persona of Andres Mailied warns someone � himself? � of a pretty girl�s probable treachery to Mendelssohn�s humorous music (note the brief drum-rolls in the piano to underscore the repeated warnings, �Don�t trust her: she�ll make a fool of you!�).

6 DUETS OP.63

Felix in 1836 had fallen in love with C�cile Jeanrenaud, whom he would marry the following year; the tremulous love duet Ich wollt� meine Lieb� erg�sse sich comes from this period in his life. Eight years later in 1844, when the Op.63 set was published, he added the newly composed Abschiedslied der Zugv�gel (No.2) whose melancholy migratory birds are emblems of the homeless and sorrowful spirit; the tender and yet animated vow of eternal love in Gruss (No.3); and the playful Maigl�ckchen und die Bl�melein (No.6) in Mendelssohn�s scherzo manner. Herbstlied (No.4) had begun as a �Duet without words� in 1836, but then Mendelssohn�s friend Karl Klingemann applied his autumnal poem to the piano work in 1844; the result was a duet whose themes mirror those in the other duets (memories of a round dance, spring turning to winter and joy to sorrow). German song composers made something of a cult of Robert Burns�s poetry, and the Volkslied (�O s�h� ich auf der Haide dort�/O wert thou in the cauld blast) signals its Scottish origins via drone bass patterns.

Susan Youens


"With fresh-voiced vocalists who sing with masterly technique, with the brilliant collaboration of Martineau, and with first-rate sound, this first volume is a thorough delight."


American Record Guide

   
   

Copyright © 2017 Champs Hill Records