Mendelssohn: Piano works Vol. 5

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COMPOSERS: Mendelssohn
LABELS: Naxos
WORKS: Piano works Vol. 5
PERFORMER: Benjamin Frith (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 8.553541
Even though most of the works played here may be considered products of his juvenile years, if such an adjective can ever be ascribed to such a prodigiously gifted composer as Mendelssohn, there is both substance and creativity at the highest level on display here, and you will find few advocates as alive to the spirit of the music as Benjamin Frith.

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When listening to these performances, you can well imagine Mendelssohn himself taking delight in his own invention as twists and turns of harmony combine with ever more fiendish technical hurdles for the performer to negotiate. This is music tailor-made for Frith’s nicely controlled, stylish technique, containing enough lightness of touch to let the more capricious elements of the music to take flight when necessary. Listening to the final movement of the Op. 7 set of pieces, for instance, although not equal to the ultra-sensitivity of touch as a Schiff or Perahia in similar repertoire, there is an airborne, weightless quality to Frith’s playing which seems just right here. In the previous movement, Frith establishes a more inward-looking world with finely-judged rubato and some wonderful voicing of separate strands within the texture. The piano sound is satisfactory, if inclined to harshness in more climactic passages. Stephen Haylett