Fanny Mendelssohn: Lieder

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Fanny Mendelssohn
LABELS: Hyperion
WORKS: Lieder
PERFORMER: Susan Gritton (soprano), Eugene Asti (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: CDA 67110
Hyperion’s systematic survey of the Lieder repertoire would have been incomplete without at least one disc devoted to Fanny Mendelssohn, though the 29 songs included here still represent only about one-tenth of her Lieder output. Her reputation deserves the kind of boost this excellent disc offers: besides the usual occupational hazards faced by women composers, she suffered through anti-Semitism and by being overshadowed by her brother. At least when it came to their songs, Fanny’s were often more interesting than Felix’s, and even those of hers originally published under his name are not among her best.

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This recording is also timely in undoing some of the harm of the recent Newport Classic disc of Fanny Mendelssohn songs I reviewed last month, and both Susan Gritton and Eugene Asti get to the heart of these pieces. Gritton’s bright, focused soprano evokes all the poignant longing of ‘Ferne’ and moonlit melancholia of ‘Die Mainacht’, and she conveys the emotional pull of the settings by several major poets featured here. The ‘Gondellied’ and ‘Nach Süden’ reflect the Romantic fixation on Italy, the latter with a piano part full of ecstatic energy which Asti captures well. The optimistic ‘Bergeslust’, written the day before the composer’s untimely death, ends a disc that is enhanced by typically (for Hyperion) full notes. John Allison