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Mendelssohn - Three Songs Without Words

Discussion in 'Submission Room' started by jlr43, Sep 18, 2012.

  1. jlr43

    jlr43 Member Piano Society Artist

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    Hello all,

    Back with the third part of four of the current repertory I've been working on. I've never cared much for Mendelssohn overall (besides maybe the violin sonata and spring symphony), finding some of his piano works a bit derivative and favoring style over substance, though I've always had a particular fondness for some of the Songs Without Words. They can sometimes seem reminiscent of childhood scenes a la the Kinderszenen. Here are three of my personal favorites, the lyrical E Major and the G minor Boat Song, and the energetic Hunting Song, all from the first book, Opus 19.

    Thanks for listening,

    Joe

    Mendelssohn - Songs Without Words, Op. 19, No. 1, in E Major (4:51)
    Mendelssohn - Songs Without Words, Op. 19, No. 3, in A Major ("Hunting Song") (2:25)
    Mendelssohn - Songs Without Words, Op. 19, No. 6, in G Minor ("Venetian Gondola Song") (2:13)
     
  2. richard66

    richard66 Richard Willmer Piano Society Artist

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    I share your view of Mendelssohn, though I extend it to most of his work, excluding some of his juvenile compositions (a particularly fine 2 piano concerto), the Midsummer's Night Dream and his Italian and Scottish symphonies and I agree with the wit who commented that if they had words the songs without words might have been better. After saying this I commend your choice of songs, being particularly fine examples these. The one in E major reminds me of Schumann (derivative too?).

    The Spring Symphony is Schumann's, by the way.

    I have enjoyed your playing and have nothing to nag about, though you seem more sympathetic to the one in E major, but this might be my impression, where the "song " comes out beautifully.
     
  3. jlr43

    jlr43 Member Piano Society Artist

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    Hi Richard,

    Yes, me too, particularly the undulating accompaniment that is worked out between the hands.

    Oops, right, I meant the Italian Symphony :oops:

    I guess my personal favorite of the three would go to the hunting song although, right, that is less a real "song than a mood-catching character piece.

    Thanks very much for listening,

    Joe
     
  4. StuKautsch

    StuKautsch Member Piano Society Artist

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    I am also not a Mendelssohn fan, but find it very hard not to adore #1 in this set, as well as your rendition of it - you display such patience that I'm very envious. I'll have to work on this piece in order to achieve that sort of calm in my playing.
    I also liked the Gondola song a lot and felt that you got the tempo exactly right for the mood.
    #3 is just a terrible piece of music and reminds me of a lot of his other stuff. You did it more justice than the piece deserves, IMHO.
    I notice that you belong to the school which allows non-simultaneity between the hands for the purpose of bring out the melody. I belong to the same school. I do it consciously. Do you?
    Again, great job - you made me enjoy this composer more than I usually do.
     
  5. jlr43

    jlr43 Member Piano Society Artist

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    Thanks, Stu.

    Probably at this point, it's mostly subconscious (at least I don't work out exactly where I want to do it), though I try not to do it to excess. IMO it's one of those techniques that, as you say, can help bring out the melody in certain instances and can add a little bit of extra romantic flair when used judiciously.
     
  6. luissarro

    luissarro New Member

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    Hi, Joseph!

    Very nice music which I hadn't listened before (shame... v_v), and your playing is very refined. Congratulations!
     
  7. techneut

    techneut Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    I am ambivalent about Mendelssohn too. While I adore his symphonies, overtures, violin concerto, Midsummernight's Dream and some piano works (notably the Variations Serieuses and the Rondo Capriccio), his piano concerti and most of his piano works just irritate me, being either saccharine or note-spinning. Some of the LOW are nice like no.1 but as a whole the set does not really appeal to me. Your playing is beyond reproach though I find
    no.1 rather slow and timid. No.3 is properly energetic though could maybe do with some grander gestures. No 6, well, I've never known what to make of all these gondola songs, and no performance could convince me they are great music. Your left-before-right habit in no.1 does get a bit insistent.
     
  8. andrew

    andrew Member Piano Society Artist

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    Nice playing of all three. Like Stu, I have trouble with the middle piece which just sounds a little crass despite your efforts. The other two are more convincing, and there's some lovely lyrical playing in both. Despite being rather partial to the left before right mannerism myself, I think you overdo it in no.1 and, by employing constantly rather than using it do draw attention to specific, musically significant, points, its usage becomes counterproductive. That's really the only quibble I can think of.
     
  9. jlr43

    jlr43 Member Piano Society Artist

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    Thanks for the comments, guys.

    Luis, thanks for listening and for your kind compliments.

    Chris, excellent points as always. I know the left-before-right thing is probably less kosher now than it was in the golden days of yore. I wasn't aware that I was doing it to excess in No.1, but at any rate, one should be more aware of when one is doing something and not have it become a subliminal habit. I'll try to listen more for it in slow pieces down the road.

    Thanks, Andrew. Interesting to me that no one seems to like the Hunting Song! That's actually one of my favorites in the whole Songs Without Words cycle. The dotted rhythms and open sound of the fourths and fifths IMO are an imaginative rendering of a hunting clarion call on Mendelssohn's part. Ah well, our gondolas all float differently, to paraphrase the saying :p
     
  10. techneut

    techneut Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    Excess I would not say, it's fine if you like that sort of thing, old-school playing and all that. I admit being a bit allergic to it when it is done habitually. It'a great device when used sparingly, something I'm only recently starting to apply in romantic music.

    I'll put these up some time when I get home (this week I'm in Prague to assist a customer).
     
  11. techneut

    techneut Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    These are now on the site (please check).
     
  12. Rachfan

    Rachfan Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    Hi Joe,

    I listened to all three of Mendelssohn's "Songs" that you posted. I believe you've played them very well and convincingly. It was a pleasure to listen.

    In this volume Mendelssohn offers pieces for everyone from the lower-intermediate student up through the advanced pianist. He also presents many different scenes, events and moods. And the sophistication of his music is surely a step up from Carl Maria von Weber in my opinion. Yet, I have very mixed feelings about his piano music. First, Mendelssohn seems to have been addicted to presto and prestissimo, such that much of his piano music (and not just from the Songs) sounds like spinning pinwheels where little or nothing is memorable at the conclusion of the performance. And secondly, sometimes his piano music sounds, well, banal. It's far too predictable in the turns of phrase, harmonies and cadences--and usually sugar coated too. I've played about a dozen of the Songs without Words.

    I once read that Mendelssoln intensely disliked writing character pieces for piano. When he would get a request from his publisher for more pieces, his mood would darken, he'd fret and become agitated, but would finally settle down and pen some pieces. He only titled about five or six of them. All the other titles were conjured by his publishers to increase sales. When I was a kid, Mendelssohn was not quite in the same strata as Chopin, Liszt, and Schumann, but some of his pieces like the "Andante and Rondo Capriccioso" and the "Scherzo" from Op. 20 were regularly heard. I sense that his popularity might be even more on the wane now.

    David
     
  13. jlr43

    jlr43 Member Piano Society Artist

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    Thanks very much, Chris. The only thing I noticed is that the number "6" is missing before the piece's title on the site. Incidentally, in the A. Bertazzi version right above, "(Venetian Gondola Song)" is missing, so maybe that should be consistent (sorry, that's the editor in me coming out :p ).
     
  14. jlr43

    jlr43 Member Piano Society Artist

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    David,

    Thanks for listening and for your kind words. Thanks as well for your interesting points about Mendelssohn. I agree with most of them, except maybe I personally like Weber a little more. :p IMO it seems as though the early Songs Without Words were better than the late ones. Mendelssohn seemed to run out of ideas a bit in some of the later fast pieces.

    Joe
     
  15. techneut

    techneut Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    Oops, can't get the staff these days :) It's fixed.
     
  16. musicrecovery

    musicrecovery Member Piano Society Artist

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    Hi Joe,

    The E major Song Without Words is beautfully played. It is truly what a song should be.
    The melody is given the importance it deserves and there are so many nuances of expression. The left hand is stylistically the accompaniment it should be. Bravo!

    The Hunting Song is played very beautifully as well.

    Your interpretation of The Venetian Gondala song is subdued and refined. There is a visual aspect of it. One can see the work and skill of the Gondolier.

    The first two songs, are indeed very Schumannesque. Congratulations on your interpretations of all three.

    - Kaila
     
  17. RSPIll

    RSPIll New Member

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    Hi JLR,

    I think that our performances are all outstanding. Yes, I have a love / hate relationship with Mendelssohn. When he is good, he is very, very good. When he is "bad" he is boring. I've been looking through the "Songs Without Words" from time to time over the last few years, but there are so many of them.

    All of that said, I do think that you did a beautiful job of your selections.

    If I had any criticism, it would be on the "Gondola" one. The beginning sounds a little halting when one should feel the waves moving the boat. Then, when you got to the point of a big wave, it did not take enough time on the notes.

    Scott
     

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