Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy (1809–1847) Songs
Urtext based on the Leipzig Mendelssohn Complete Edition edited by Christian Martin Schmidt [vc,pno]
This edition clearly ranks among the most important new publications of the Mendelssohn Anniversary Year 2009. Interested interpreters can now learn all of Mendelssohn's songs on the basis of a reliable Urtext edition.
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"Die drei Bände sollten in keiner Bibliothek einer Musikhochschule fehlen." (Sibrand Basa, Vox Humana)
"Die Ausgabe bietet optimale Voraussetzungen, um Mendelssohns Liedern den Weg aus der Schublade in die Salons, Konzertsäle und Wohnzimmer unserer Zeit zurückzubahnen." (Die Tonkunst)
You will find the tables of contents and music samples under the information to Volume 1 to 3.
Extract from the Preface to all three volumes
Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy cultivated the composition of songs throughout his life. A song is the first of his ascertainably datable works, the “Lied zum Geburtstage meines guten Vaters” written at the age of ten. It was part of a collective gift of the elder siblings to their father Abraham on 11 December 1819. No doubt penned in the family circle, its text, Ihr Töne, schwingt euch fröhlich durch die Saiten, also served as the basis for a song by Felix’s 14-year-old sister Fanny. And it was again lieder on which Mendelssohn was working with undiminished intensity in the weeks before his death on 4 November 1847. While preparing the printing of his last song collection op. 71, he wrote the third number of this opus, “An die Entfernte” to words of Nikolaus Lenau, on 22 September of that year, and on 7 October he wrote his last piece, the “Altdeutsches Frühlingslied” from Des Knaben Wunderhorn.
Mendelssohn’s aesthetic conception of the song never prioritized solely the fulfillment of lofty artistic demands, such as that of the late Schubert, or of Brahms and Hugo Wolf. Mendelssohn’s songs always potentially contain a social component as well. The genre offered him a field of artistic endeavor which, considering the dimension of the works, was ideal for enhancing social gatherings, for gift-giving on birthdays, at weddings or births, for expressing thanks for a service rendered, etc. This explains the enormous amount of sources in this genre, since the composer not only made copies of his songs out of a personal impulse, but also gladly complied with requests for album leaves or entries into family albums. These works were thus intended not for the large concert hall but for home music-making. They were not “public” art works but, at most, “published.” This also explains Mendelssohn’s great reluctance to authorize the printing of these works, a position he maintained even more adamantly towards the lieder than towards the other genres. The 56 songs published during his lifetime represent about half of his transmitted output.
It is particularly interesting to see how Mendelssohn handled the texts that he set to music, since he did not follow the sources rigidly, but cultivated a kind of “Romantic appropriation.” This encompasses the number of strophes and the concrete formulation of the text as well as – and above all – the wording of the title. Mendelssohn generally structured his songs according to the tripartite strophic pattern A–A–B; if the poetic source had more than three stanzas, the composer made a selection. One example among many is the Heine setting Was will die einsame Träne, of which he borrowed stanzas 1, 2 and 4 of the source’s four stanzas. The same song also documents Mendelssohn’s tendency to disencumber the text of all too expressive and self-referential details. In the second stanza, for instance, Heine writes mit meinen Qualen und Freuden; Mendelssohn replaces this with mit ihren Schmerzen und Freuden. And while Heine’s poem has no title, Mendelssohn calls his song “Erinnerung,” thus underscoring the distance in perspective which he favored. The song Mein Liebchen, wir saßen beisammen, also to a Heine text, represents an extreme case in this respect. Though the composer included all three stanzas of the poem, he made a great many textual interventions and altered them constantly in the seven different versions of the song. An alteration made in the last sentence of the poem is particularly revealing. Heine’s words read: Wir aber schwammen vorüber, trostlos auf weitem Meer; Mendelssohn replaces trostlos – consistently in all versions – with allein and thus eschews the final point so typical of Heine, the counteraction of the seemingly idyllic atmosphere with one single word. Here, too, the composer provides a title that is not found in Heine. Indeed, he provides a variety of them: “Im Kahn,” “Auf dem Wasser” and “Wasserfahrt.”
Berlin, Fall 2008