Lebrecht Weekly – Felix Mendelssohn: Songs without words (BIS)


Mendelssohn Songs Without Words 5-8

As a general rule, I would rather eat porridge that has been left to stand overnight than listen to music of the romantic era being played on what is supposed to be a period instrument and is actually a modern replica, made the year before last. In this case, a reproduction of an 1830 Paris Pleyel that was manufactured by Paul McNulty in 2010. I mean, why….?

Then again, ask any composer if he or she wanted their music to be played on the best possible soundboard or on a washboard and you’ll get an answer far more conclusive than the UK’s recent Brexit vote. So why am I listening – and vastly enjoying – this performance by a Dutch musician in a Swedish church on a phoney-authentic keyboard of the second half of Mendelssohn’s late domestic offerings, variously dedicated to Clara Schumann and the young Queen Victoria?

Yeah, I asked that question, too. It’s to do with sharing intimacy. Mendelssohn wrote these pieces for ordinary people to play at home on whatever instrument that could afford. If it happened to sound tinny, so be it. This performance by Ronald Brautigam perfectly captures that make-do intent of the music, at least in the dryness of the sound projection. It also brings out all sorts of intimations and anticipations you might never have considered before. Listen to the third song of opus 62 (the third track on this album) and ask yourself what Gustav Mahler’s fifth symphony is doing there. Just listen. Then play some yourself.

—Norman Lebrecht

  • 4
  • User Ratings (0 Votes)

About Author

Norman Lebrecht is a prolific writer on music and cultural affairs. His blog, Slipped Disc, is one of the most popular sites for cultural news. He presents The Lebrecht Interview on BBC Radio 3 and is a contributor to several publications, including the Wall Street Journal and The Standpoint. Visit every Friday for his weekly CD review // Norman Lebrecht est un rédacteur prolifique couvrant les événements musicaux et Slipped Disc, est un des plus populaires sites de nouvelles culturelles. Il anime The Lebrecht Interview sur la BBC Radio 3 et collabore à plusieurs publications, dont The Wall Street Journal et The Standpoint. Vous pouvez lire ses critiques de disques chaque vendredi.

Leave A Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.