Recorded on 08/24/2004, uploaded on 01/19/2009
Musician's or Publisher's Notes
Beginning in the 19th century, more and more families came to own pianos in their households. As a result, many composers, from Irish composer John Field on down to Johannes Brahms, took to writing collections of short pieces for the instrument that embraced a wide spectrum of difficulty levels from amateur to professional. In many cases, these collections were commercially profitable and played a major role in bringing the music of these masters from the concert hall into the private home.
Among the most popular of these collections are the eight books of “Songs without Words” Felix Mendelssohn composed throughout his career, totaling fifty-six pieces in all (six in each book). The “Song without Words”, as a title, was of Mendelssohn’s own invention, though the character of the pieces was likely inspired by a number of short compositions by his sister Fanny. In context, Mendelssohn did not intend for his title to be taken too literally and it can be surmised that his intention was only to convey the lyrical expression and, in general, the melodic dominance of the pieces. When his friend Souchay attempted to put words to his music, Mendelssohn objected by stating: “What the music I love expresses to me, is not thought too indefinite to put into words, but on the contrary, too definite.” (Mendelssohn’s own italics.)
The Songs without Words published as Book 6 were composed during 1843-45. The first of the set is a tranquil Andante in E flat major. Throughout, the left hand keeps up a rolling accompaniment of arpeggios over which the song’s melody effortlessly glides. A brief middle section, passing through related keys, mildly disturbs the otherwise serene setting of the song, adding a soft touch of drama. Next comes an Allegro in F sharp minor. Here, however, the minor key is not a portrayal of grief or sadness, but instead, tempered with harmonies of its nearby neighboring key of A major, it has the sound of wistful longing—like the song of a lover in pursuit of his beloved. Finally, the last song of the group, an Allegretto non troppo in E major, presents a graceful melody in triple time. Cast in ternary form, the outer sections have the elegant expression of the dance. However, the middle section becomes more passionate as the motives of the melody are explored in a quasi-developmental fashion. Joseph DuBose
While these short lyrical "songs without words" are similar to the Romances written for many solo instruments, here the form is confined solely to the keyboard. They have a somewhat uniform style following the form of a song which begins and ends with a few bars of accompaniment, but each has a distinct mood. Mendelssohn invented the German term "Lieder ohne Worte" and employed it as the title of eight books of music, totaling 48 short works. These three movements are from Book VI, completed in 1845, just two years before Mendelssohn died at the age of thirty-six. Minju Choi
Courtesy of International Music Foundation.
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