Friday, July 15, 2011

Mendelssohn - The Variations Serieuses...A Work of Great Importance

Mendelssohn is justifiably compared, in terms of precocity, with Mozart.
He wrote music at an extremely early age, and publicly appeared as a pianist before age ten. He possessed an assiduously keen curiosity about his world, and traveled a great deal, having been born into a family of power and wealth; after all, his grandfather was the philosopher Moses Mendelssohn, his father Abraham one of Germany's more powerful bankers. We know that he read Shakespeare in English as well as in German. Among other accomplishments, he was the founder of the Leipzig Conservatory, and gained great notoriety both on the Continent and in England.
His Symphonies and the marvelous Violin Concerto are among his better-known masterpieces.
In the piano solo aspect, his Songs Without Words remain to this day among the more popular masterpieces for the instrument.
One piece, which I believe should be more widely acknowledged, is his Variations Serieuses, primarily for one reason; that is, the quality of dimension in a piece for piano solo.
It goes without saying that in his orchestral works and the Concertos the architectural abilities of Mendelssohn are pandemic, marvelously enhanced by way of his pristine harmonic judgement.
However, in his works for piano solo, he does not involve himself quite as much in size as he does so wonderfully in his harmonic judgement, as witnessed countless times in his Songs Without Words, most of which are a few pages in length. Certainly his vaunted Rondo has extended material; however, in the Variations we see a piece of music of considerable size and concept, both in material and in his abilities to develop variations. As I recall, it was written in 1841, only a few years before a tragically premature death.
There are a few recordings of the Variations available. It is, of course, familiar among those in the profession; however, this blog will serve, hopefully, as a piece of information which will serve some of you by way of discovery of Mendelssohn as not only the great composer we all know, but also as a musical architect of the first magnitude through these magnificent variations.
As a child, I was entranced by the Horowitz recording - see if you can get hold of it.

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