Mendelssohn: Songs without Words, all. Daniel Gortler, p Romeo 7273 [2CD] 120 minutes
Burton Rothleder, Fanfare Magazine
Mendelssohn composed his “Songs without Words” between the ages of 19 and 36. The complete “Songs without Words” consists of eight books of six songs each-48 brief piano pieces, each a masterpiece. And that is what we have here, but we also have more. We have the young Israeli pianist, Daniel Gortler, who is a consummate musician and who conveys Mendelssohn’s various moods embodied in these brief pieces with delicacy, or force, or poetry, or humor, where appropriate. Gortler is clearly a major talent, and these pieces allow him to express this talent as a labor of love.
These piano songs vary in length from about one minute to about three-and-a-half minutes, with one exception of close to five minutes. Each one is literally unique in that there is no copying of a phrase, or even a sub-phrase, from one to include in another. In three of them, Mendelssohn pays homage to Mozart. Near the beginning of op. 30/5, Mendelssohn quotes the opening of the Rondo of the early B Piano Sonata (K 281). Mendelssohn opens op. 38/1 by quoting the opening of the Rondo of the C-Major Piano Sonata (K 309). The entire op. 85/2 A-Minor piano song is a one-minute redolence of the Presto of Mozart’s A-Minor Piano Sonata (K 310). The accompanying jewel case insert provides none of this information, leaving it to the listener to be a musical detective. There are likely other musical quotes or allusions that I have not detected.
Andras Schiff recorded 22 of these 48 masterpieces. Consummate artist though he is, magnificent though his playing may be, his offering is sorely deficient compared to Gortler’s. But on just one count-26 of these masterpieces are absent.
All should own and listen to these CDs. Play musical detective, if you like, to outdo the reviewer! This is very beautiful music, not readily accessible for listening in its entirety.