Mendelssohn: Piano Works, Vol. 2: Three Preludes, Op. 104a; Three Études, Op. 104b; Variations sérieuses; Kinderstücke; Piano Sonata in E, Op. 6; Gondellied in A; Scherzo in B minor

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COMPOSERS: Mendelssohn
LABELS: Naxos
WORKS: Piano Works, Vol. 2: Three Preludes, Op. 104a; Three Études, Op. 104b; Variations sérieuses; Kinderstücke; Piano Sonata in E, Op. 6; Gondellied in A; Scherzo in B minor
PERFORMER: Benjamin Frith (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 8.550940 DDD
Here, the well-known Variations sérieuses are juxtaposed with piano works heard far less frequently that nevertheless prove themselves to be vintage Mendelssohn. Anyone who enjoys the composer but is not acquainted with the exquisite E major Piano Sonata should definitely buy this disc – it is a work of delicious tenderness and good humour. The Three Preludes, Op. 104a, and Three Études, Op. 104b, are typical of Mendelssohn’s piano music, weaving chorale-like themes through filigree showers of arpeggios; and the Kinderstücke are brimful with charm.

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Frith is a powerful player, who eschews precious ‘Victorianism’ in favour of strength of character, clarity of articulation and passionate conviction. He does not have quite the elfin subtlety in either touch or imagination of, for instance, a Perahia or a Schiff. But for a composer who can be misrepresented as lightweight, this fresh view may be no bad thing. This is music of substance and Frith gives it its due. The Variations sérieuses emerge particularly well, the theme itself imbued with a quasi-religious introspection, the variations building up with momentum and fervour. Jessica Duchen