- Piano Sonata in G minor
- Song (Lied) for piano in E flat major (for Fanny Mendelssohn)
- Piano Sonata in C minor
- Notturno for piano in G minor
- Allegro molto for piano in C minor
Fanny Mendelssohn: Piano Sonatasby Heather Schmidt
Since the rediscovery of Fanny Mendelssohn-Hensel, sister of Felix, has begun, there have been several recordings devoted to her piano music, both compared with that of her brother and, as here, flying solo. Perhaps the most interesting aspect of hearing it without reference to Felix Mendelssohn's music is that some of the music, such as the "Allegro molto agitato in D minor" heard here (track 14), may well exceed anything Felix wrote in terms of sheer virtuosity. Fanny must have been an extraordinary pianist to have made her way through the octaves in this work at age 18 in anything like a satisfactory fashion, and this album as a whole is sufficient to touch off a fresh round of irritation that her music was partially suppressed by pressure from most of the men in her life (her husband, court painter Wilhelm Hensel, fortunately excepted) to knock off the music and get to getting barefoot and pregnant. Canadian-American pianist Heather Schmidt produces exceptionally well-wrought versions of the pianistic showpieces, which were influenced less by her brother than by the likes of Friedrich Kalkbrenner, and she has a quiet, understated style that's very effective in the various pieces here that correspond to Felix Mendelssohn's "Songs Without Words." In the two piano sonatas, each of which has surprising turns in its sonata forms that owe little to Felix, it is possible to imagine more passionate performances, especially in the "Piano Sonata in G minor," and especially there in the quite profound Adagio (track 9). But this will be a good release for libraries to have on hand, given the rising interest in including music by women in general music courses, and it makes a reasonable place to start for anyone interested in the composer.
- Release Date:
Performance CreditsHeather Schmidt Primary Artist
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I wasn't quite sure what to make of this disc on first hearing it. The recording quality is excellent, and has good dynamic range. Initially, though, it was difficult for me to avoid the inevitable comparisons with Fanny's brother Felix. However, upon a second and third listening on my home stereo, the talents of both Fanny and Heather Schmidt (the pianist) made themselves readily apparent. This recording contains pieces from various points throughout Fanny's all too short life, and clearly demonstrate the talents of a growing composer as well as those of a more mature developed individual, despite the fact that she was discouraged from publishing because of her gender. Make no mistake, Fanny has something to say. The turbulent Allegro molto in C minor is defiant, with whirlwinds of chords that travel up and down the keyboard, which contrasts nicely with the more wistful three movement Sonata in C minor, the latter being dedicated to her brother "in his absence". And a marvelous example of a more mature composition can be found in the Piano Sonata in G minor, a strong yet not too forceful work that grabbed this listener by the ears and made him stop what he was doing until the fourth movement had finished. Darker harmonies, albeit strangely warm at the same time, can be found in the Sonata o Capriccio, yet another piece on this disc that I liked a great deal. And there is no denying that the Notturno in G minor, written by a more mature Fanny, shows why this composer is worth exploring and listening to. Yes, this is a composer with something to say. And with Heather Schmidt bringing the pieces to life, Fanny's compositions do indeed have a voice. This listener wants to hear more.