An Emotional Message Spanning 200 Years

Fanny Lieder Op9-2
Fanny Mendelssohn, drawn by her husband Wilhelm Hensel.

I like poems from the era of German Romanticism and I like songs that set them to music. If I do not share Fanny’ Mendelssohn’s talent as a musician, at least we share the love for a specific kind of literature in common. And of course I like to play the songs she composed… these beautiful harmonies! Challenging and rewarding. In 1850 she published a set of six songs: Sechs Lieder (Op. 9), recorded by Barbara Heller (piano) and Isabel Lippitz (soprano). The corresponding poems had been written by Friedrich Gottlieb Klopstock, Ludwig Christoph Heinrich Hölty and Johann Heinrich Voss; springtime renewal, the anticipation of death and Romantic longing are the subjects.

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“I want to keep moving forward!”

The end of the night. © Charles Thibo

A silent morning. The garden behind the house is still wrapped in darkness. The evening before I had spent some time admiring the stars that were beginning to appear in the blue-black sky. Now it is the moon I am observing. It will be full moon tonight. Scattered clouds are etching random pattern in the sky and bizarre shadows are moving stealthily over the pale-lit ground. A perfect moment for a Romanticist. A perfect moment for Elfrida Andrée’s Piano Sonata, op. 3.

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Fantasizing over Belligerent Norse Kings

Scotland Bruch-1
Norseland. © Charles Thibo

Welcome to Westray, a remote island in the North Sea, part of the Orkneys. I have unforgettable memories of a holiday when I was like 25 years old. Few people live there, the climate is harsh usually, but I was lucky and enjoyed several sunny days that made me discover the singular and rough beauty of this part of Scotland. I also enjoyed teaming up with other backpackers to visit the remarkable graveyard of Pierowall, to observe the myriads of sea birds nesting in the cliffs or to try to live for one day of food picked, bartered or worked for on the neighbouring island Papa Westray. That day we got plenty of mushrooms, sea snails, potatoes and a lobster too small to be sold by the fishermen.

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Connecting to Mozart and Beethoven with a Trio

Mendelssohn Piano Trio2-1
© Charles Thibo

In the first movement I hear an excited young man. At first I thought at an angry young man because of the restless violin part, but no, the cello gives those specific parts something comforting. No anger, but a lot of expectation. Was it what Felix Mendelssohn intended to say with the first movement of his Piano Trio No. 2 in C Minor, op. 66? After all he was a young man at the culmination point of his career as a composer, pianist and conductor. What more did he look for? Felix composed it in 1845, dedicated it to Louis Spohr, whom we have met in an earlier post, and offered it to his sister Fanny as a birthday present.

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