Mendelssohn, Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel

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COMPOSERS: Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel,Mendelssohn
LABELS: Musica Omnia
WORKS: Piano Trio in C minor, Op. 66
PERFORMER: Atlantis Trio
CATALOGUE NO: MO 0105 (distr.
Buy the Atlantis Trio’s recordings of piano trios by Felix and Fanny Mendelssohn and you also get a 25-minute illustrated discussion of the music and the performances – as, in fact, you would with any other Musica Omnia release. As the best moments in the discussion disc show, one well-chosen musical example can be worth a thousand words. The insights offered by the members of the Atlantis Trio are often helpful – for example, it’s good to know how fortepianist Penelope Crawford gets the sinister metallic sound in the opening of Felix Mendelssohn’s C minor Trio (use of the so-called ‘moderator’ pedal). And I like her gently subversive suggestion that Fanny was a more ‘masculine’ composer than her brother – by which apparently she means less ‘elegant’, more ‘restless’ (feminist musicologists discuss). But for me the striking features of both performances are not so much the new perspectives provided by the period instruments, but the musicality and sustained passion of the playing. The first movement of Fanny Mendelssohn’s D minor Trio seems to emerge in a grand, energetic single sweep, while the triumphant return of the chorale theme in the finale of Felix’s C minor Trio is more effective than I’ve ever heard it in performance – a true dramatic apotheosis, with the strings’ sawing arpeggios well-balanced against the pounding fortepiano chords. An impressive release, and for me the most convincing case yet for taking Fanny Mendelssohn seriously as a composer. Stephen Johnson