“Interesting and beautifully-produced” (Classical Guitar Magazine)
Lieder ohne Worte (Songs without Words) by Felix Mendelssohn
1 Op. 85, No. 4 (Elegy) [2:50]
2 Op. 85, No. 1[2:44]
3 Op. 38, No. 1[2:36]
4 Op. 30, No. 1[4:36]
5 Op. 53, No. 4 (Sadness of Soul) [3:16]
6 Op. 53, No. 2 (Dedication) [3:24]
7 Op. 62, No. 2[2:08]
8 Op. 19, No. 1 (Sweet Remembrance) [3:20]
9 Op. 67, No. 2 (Lost Illusions) [2:35]
10 Op. 62, No. 6 (Spring Song) [2:39]
11 Op. 102, No. 6 (Belief) [2:22]
12 Op. 30, No. 6 (Venetian Gondola Song) [3:45]
13 Op. 38, No. 2 (Lost Happiness) [2:21]
14 Op. 102, No. 1[2:19]
15 Op. 85, No. 2 (Adieu) [1:16]
16 Op. 62, No. 1 (May Breeze) [3:27]
17 Op. 102, No. 4 (The Sighing Wind) [2:24]
Kinderszenen (Scenes of Childhood), Op. 15, by Robert Schumann
18 Von fremden Landern und Menschen (Of Foreign Lands and People) [2:18]
19 Curiose Geschichte (Curious Story) [1:12]
20 Hasche-Mann (Catch Me) [0:42]
21 Bittendes Kind (Entreating Child) [0:58]
22 Gluckes genug (Perfect Happiness) [0:46]
23 Wichtige Begebenheit (Important Event) [1:01]
24 Traumerei (Dreaming) [3:32]
25 Am Kamin (By the Fireside) [1:04]
26 Ritter vom Steckenpferd (Knight of the Hobby Horse) [0:50]
27 Fast zu ernst (Almost too Serious) [2:21]
28 Furchtenmachen (Frightening) [2:00]
29 Kind im einschlummern (Child Falling Asleep) [2:32]
30 Der Dichter spricht (The Poet Speaks) [2:36]
I have always been drawn to mid-19th century music for its unabashed romanticism, even its sentimentality--qualities often absent in more recent works. The guitar, it seems to me, is uniquely suited for expression of this type. The guitar’s intimate quality-inherent in the manner of sound production used, that of actual fingertips stroking the strings (as opposed to, say, the hammer of the piano or the bow of the violin)- contributes to this association. The pieces on this recording are all works of modest length and structure. As the guitar possesses a relatively small dynamic range, it tends to be most effective in the performance of works of such length, and thus the arrangements seem quite natural. The individual pieces, though, are parts of larger wholes, and it is in the presentation of the works in their entirety (Schumann) or in great enough numbers to constitute an authentic cycle (Mendelssohn), that this project finds its primary motivation.
“The ‘Lieder ohne Worte’ (1830-50) are wonderful examples of the early romantic love of short character pieces that were meant to be played intimately in the home. They are the quintessential music of the Biedermeier period [c. 1815- 1848] and are the musical equivalent of early romantic lyric poetry. Although many have descriptive titles such as "Venetian Gondola Song,” they are in no way programmatic. Mendelssohn's belief was that ‘music is not too indefinite for words, but too definite.’ This music is also a good example of the difference between Mendelssohn and the other great early romantics. There is an objective clarity to Mendelssohn's harmony and a classical symmetry to his melodic phrasing that is quite different from the revolutionary chromatic explorations and outbursts of Chopin even in shorter pieces such as the ‘Preludes,’ or the enigmatic irregularities of Schumann’s highly personal style in his sets of character pieces for the piano.”*
A note on the subtitles or nicknames some of the “Songs” have: Mendelssohn himself only added titles to a handful-- between four and six. Of those indicated on the CD cover, the only one certainly attributable to the composer is the “Venetian Gondola Song.” The others have been added by others over the years, but have become widely known by the public, and so have been included here.
To play these pieces on the guitar is to enter a very special musical world. Even though many of them are quite simple on piano, they become somehow more significant on the guitar, as if made larger by the smaller size of the instrument. As “songs,” the guitar’s unique ability to convey a singing melodic line renders them most at home. The recording features seventeen of the composer’s total of forty-eight (the accompanying publication of these arrangements includes thirty). These works are some of the most beautiful and effective I have played on solo guitar; in these arrangements, they have truly become guitar works. Among those included on this recording are some of the most familiar, including “Venetian Gondola Song,” “Belief,” “Sadness of Soul,” and “Spring Song.”
Schumann’s beloved Kinderszenen Op. 15, written in 1838, is another collection of miniatures perfectly suited to arrangement for guitar. Colorful, evocative and highly varied, this collection has captured the imaginations of pianists and audiences ever since they were introduced.
“One does not know which to admire more: the delicate distinction of the melodic line, the magic which combines rhythmical subtlety and variety with the elemental tang of the folk tune, the originality of the tone-color, or the pure, intimate limpid simplicity and restraint of the whole. Among all of Schumann’s works, this one may enter the most persuasive bid for immortality.”**
The unique intimacy of the solo guitar is perfectly suited for these works; the arrangements are exquisitely natural-sounding. Featuring thirteen highly memorable pieces, including the famous solo “Traumerei,” this set is a delight to finally include in the repertoire of guitarists.
As arranger, my sole goal is to play these works such that they sound like guitar music. While every care has been taken to respect the original texts of the pieces, the highest priority is always comfortable and effortless interpretation--the sense that the works feel like they were originally conceived on and have always been guitar works. To this end, I have endeavored to add to our repertoire two major cycles of solo works by major composers otherwise not accessible to guitarists. It is my hope that you will enjoy the results.
*Robert Haven Schauffler, Florestan: The Life and Work of Robert Schumann (New York, 1945), 329.
** Allen Krantz, Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy Biography, www.classicalarchives.com