WORKS: Sextet in D, Op. 110; Clarinet Sonata in E flat; Songs without Words, Op. 19/1 & 4, Op. 38/1 & Op. 53/2; Two Concert Pieces for Clarinet, Basset-Horn & Piano
PERFORMER: Karl-Andreas Kolly (piano), Dimitri Ashkenazy (clarinet), Peter Furniss (basset-horn)Ensemble Universal
CATALOGUE NO: 510 070 DDD (distr. Vanderbeeke & Imrie)
On Felix Mendelssohn’s fifteenth birthday, his composition teacher Carl Friedrich Zelter declared the wunderkind’s apprenticeship complete, proclaiming him ‘a brother of Mozart and Haydn, in the name of the venerable Bach’.
Two of the works presented here date from Mendelssohn’s first year as a fully-fledged composer. Like the youthful string symphonies, the D major Sextet (otherwise unavailable on disc) revealed a prodigious assimilation of formal Classical principles, and a contrapuntal mastery similarly beyond comprehension in one so young.
With its aberrant instrumentation and ready charm (the F sharp major Adagio is a gem) the work, whose posthumous publication explains its high opus number, is a significant addition to the catalogue. Ensemble Universal’s performance is both engaging and competent.
The Clarinet Sonata in E flat, also of 1824, owes much to Weber; like the two Concert Pieces for clarinet and basset-horn, it was written, in all probability, for the virtuoso Heinrich Bärmann, a close acquaintance of both composers. Dimitri Ashkenazy’s account of the Sonata, and realisations of four Lieder ohne Worte transcriptions, are capable, though they tend towards a certain blandness of expression; he is joined by Peter Furniss (basset-horn) for the Opp. 113 and 114 Concert Pieces: extrovert, muscular readings, adroitly accompanied by Karl-Andreas Kolly. All in all, a serviceable assemblage of Mendelssohnian rarities and juvenilia, effectively recorded and sensitively engineered. Michael Jameson