Classical Music: Fanny and Felix Mendelssohn Piano Sextet Piano, Quartet & Piano Trio
Fanny and Felix Mendelssohn: Piano Sextet Piano, Quartet & Piano Trio
Kaleidoscope Chamber Collective
Felix Mendelssohn: Piano Sextet in D major, Op. post 110, MWV Q 16;
Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel was born four years before her brother Felix, both were accomplished pianists and prolific composers. When she died of a stroke, aged just forty-two, she left around 460 pieces of music, some 250 of which are songs.
Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel: Piano Quartet in A flat major, H-U 55 Piano Trio in D minor, Op. 11, H-U 465
Elena Urioste (violin)Juan-Miguel Hernandex and Rosalind Ventris (viola) Laura van de Hijden (cello) Chi-chi Nwanoku (double-bass) Tom Poster (piano)
Chandos Chan 20256
The difficulties of making a career in her own era (her supportive father would not allow her to publish or work as a ‘professional’ composer) have condemned much of her work to obscurity, a situation that is now rapidly being reversed thankfully, as the number of concerts and recordings devoted to works by women composers increases.
Fortunately, the Kaleidoscope Chamber Collective has taken up the mantle to champion nonmainstream repertoire, presenting a wonderful programme that showcases the creative brilliance of the Mendelssohn siblings. They play with zest, exuberance, and precision.
As Bryan Northcott writes in the notes, Felix’s sextet does at times sound less like an integrated sextet than a chamber concerto for piano and ensemble. The piano part is particularly fine compositional writing and Tom Poster rises to the challenge especially in the first movement with its semiquaver passages. Poster is undeterred by the score from the fifteen year old Felix his sparkling dexterity impressive. The two violas add a warmth the muted strings in the adagio are lovely. The sparkling final movement bubbles along glistening at every opportunity.
Fanny’s piano trio has Poster once again displaying his virtuosic nimbleness with a cascade of notes. Was Fanny trying to prove a point? The violin and cello add texture and an excellent accompaniment. There is a delightful ‘Lied;’ which, as Northcott suggests, was Fanny’s final tribute to the ’songs-without-words’ genre. It is a brief two minute movement but in that short time each of the trio’s parts come to the fore adding warmth. The dialogue in the finale between Poster, Urioste and van der Heijden as they race to the jubilant close is impressive.
The piano quartet, composed when Fanny was a 17 year old student, has lovely passages for the piano and for the violin plus a final movement with wonderfully exciting and magnificent conclusion.
Thank goodness women composers are not faced with the same problems as Fanny Mendelssohn. This disc shines the spotlight on her brilliance as a composer proving she was an equal with her male contemporaries.