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Saturday, March 12, 2005
  Thank you, Helen.

Helen Radice's post on the translator's art has been in my thoughts this week as I have moved my attention from Mendelssohn to Schumann. These guys--soon to be joined by Field, Chopin, Liszt, Schubert, and Clara Schumann--have contributed the most instrument-specific music in this anthology so far. And it seems, as I gradually make my way through this scholarly collection of music, that this anthology is presenting our tradition as one that has moved from a predominately vocal practice to a predominately instrumental one. And that the turning point in this tradition happened when a young girl named Amaryllis turned down a young man's offers.

I had thought that Mendelssohn's Songs Without Words would make lousy harp pieces only because of how specifically they were written for piano technique. After reading Helen's post it seems that might not be true (even for the Presto Op. 67, No. 4 in C?). It is the intimacy of the piano, the memory of hearing this music on the piano at home that makes Felix's instrumental choice significant. The piano is symbolic of the times and places in which Mendelssohn stood and his songs, through the piano, reach for us back toward those moments that seemed so incidental when someone no history book has remembered, perhaps one of our great-grand parents, listened to this music played for the first time.

That being said, I would like to hear the Songs Without Words without piano. 
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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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