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Monday, March 07, 2005
  Lieder ohne Worte a) Op. 67, No. 4 in C Major
Felix Mendelssohn
Norton Recorded Anthology of Western Music, CD 9 Tracks 9-11

The comparison may be tenuous and, perhaps, even invidious but I am reminded of the Rimsky-Korsakov Bumblebee when I hear this Presto of Mendelssohn's. Listener's of the Green Hornet radio drama may be cursed to think of that flight whenever speedy sixteenth notes appear. This is a considerable handicap. One might say that an over fondness of crime drama may cause a listener to miss the tune.

Whereas our famous Russian sent the chromatic swirls around the room, Mendelssohn placed them in the background. As Nikolay must have appreciated, Mendelssohn and other nineteenth century pianists achieved a remarkable depth of field not seen or heard in previous literature. Unlike an Alberti bass accompaniment, the supporting notes are not set apart by register as much by rhythm and dynamic. And remarkably, the accompaniment, thus liberated, explores the keyboard without upstaging the song.

The title Mr. Mendelssohn settled on, "Songs Without Words" is so appealing because, I believe, in spite of our reference books, we do not really know what makes a song a song. And we suspect the accompaniment these Germans perfected should be considered a crucial ingredient of song making.

Question for Helen Radice: It is my guess that, as beautiful as the "Songs Without Words" are, these pieces would make lousy harp transcriptions. Am I wrong and do harp players playing piano music favor music from the early piano music? 
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In January 2004 I starting writing an opinion for each selection in the Norton Recorded Anthology of Western Music. Now, more than a year later, I am almost finished. Soon, I will have an archive full of opinions on the music we so carelessly call "classical." And no one can stop me.

Location: Cincinnati, Ohio, United States

Director of the Contemporary Performer's Workshop... Music Teacher for St. Aloysius Gonzaga School... Principal 'Cellist of the Springfield Symphony Orchestra... Composer

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