Jakob Ludwig Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy (1809 – 1847),
born and widely known as Felix Mendelssohn, was a
German composer, pianist, organist and conductor of the
early romantic period. Mendelssohn wrote symphonies,
concertos, oratorios, piano music and chamber music.
His best-known works include his Overture and
incidental music for A Midsummer Night's Dream, the
Italian Symphony, the Scottish Symphony, the overture
The Hebrides, his mature Violin Concerto, and his
String Octet. His Songs Without Words are his most
famous solo piano compositions. After a long period of
relative denigration due to changing musical tastes and
antisemitism in the late 19th and early 20th centuries,
his creative originality has been re-evaluated. He is
now among the most popular composers of the romantic
Mendelssohn first refers to "Lieder ohne Worte" (Songs
without Words) in a letter to his sister on December
1828. He composed them initially for family and
friends, but by 1832 decided to revise and publish
these miniatures. Six sets of Lieder ohne Worte were
printed during the composer's lifetime. The last two
books of Mendelssohn's Lieder ohne Worte (Songs Without
Words) were published with the opus numbers "85" and
"102," but they cannot really be considered genuine
opera, although there is evidence that Mendelssohn
contemplated a seventh volume of Lieder ohne Worte.
Nos. 1, 2, 3, and 5 of Op. 85 form part of a manuscript
Mendelssohn wrote out in 1845, suggesting that these
four pieces, at least, were intended to be printed
together. These and two other works were assembled
after Mendelssohn's death and published as the seventh
book of Lieder ohne Worte, Op. 85, in Bonn in 1850.
In this set of Lieder ohne Worte, we find a mixture of
songs in major and minor keys and a variety of song
types, including examples of the solo song, duet, and
part song. No. 1, in F major, is fashioned along the
lines of the solo song, as is the first song of every
one of the books of Lieder ohne Worte. Accompanied by
continuous rising arpeggios in triplet motion, the
Andante espressivo melody moves in a straight duplet
rhythm that clashes with the left-hand triplets,
producing a dream-like effect. Narrow in range, the
melody develops from small fragments through the A
section. After the central section explores the
subdominant, the A-section melody returns, but is, at
first, re-harmonized. The piece closes peacefully as
the triplet figure rises to the stratosphere.
The second of the set, in A minor, was composed in
1834. In contrast to the first piece, it is duet-like,
although the primary melody is in the highest voice.
Rhythmically intricate, the piece's primary driving
force is harmony, which ventures as far as B major, and
its second half is a variation of the first. No. 3 is a
solo song with a clear division between melody and
accompaniment. In E flat major, the piece's rapidly
repeated chords produce a dense wall of sound, and the
central section takes repeated fragments of the first
part as its point of departure. The fourth piece of Op.
85 is also a solo song. Composed in 1845, it features
an elegiac melody that covers a wide range and contains
expressive chromatic inflections. No. 5 is in the style
of a part song, evident in its homophonic texture. At
times the texture increases to three or four voices,
and the bass line often moves in contrary motion to the
melody, creating a dense wash of sound. No. 6, a solo
song, is a perfect example in miniature of
Mendelssohn's ability to extract the greatest
expressiveness from a melody through chromatic
inflections and harmonic manipulation.
Although originally composed for Piano, I created this
Interpretation of the Presto from "Lieder ohne Worte"
(Op. 85 No. 3) Arranged for Oboe & Strings (2 Violins,
Viola & Cello).