Mendelssohn: Songs and duets (incl. two songs by Fanny Mendelssohn)

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COMPOSERS: Mendelssohn
LABELS: Hyperion
WORKS: Songs and duets (incl. two songs by Fanny Mendelssohn)
PERFORMER: Sophie Daneman (soprano), Nathan Berg (baritone),Eugene Asti (piano)
Mendelssohn is probably better remembered for his Songs without Words than for his numerous songs with words. The earliest work on this enchanting disc was written in 1829, the year after Schubert’s death; yet Mendelssohn’s eminently singable Lieder are not nearly as sophisticated. Compared with his contemporaries (Schumann, Liszt) or later Lieder composers (Brahms, Wolf, Mahler), Mendelssohn’s simple gifts can seem too insubstantial by half.


And yet, as these performances by two fresh-voiced young singers make clear, there is plenty to enjoy, not least in the gorgeous series of six duets published as Op. 63. The texts Mendelssohn chose are frequently mediocre, and many of the songs here are expressions of generalised emotions (four are called ‘Spring Song’). But alongside the simple, strophic settings there are delights such as ‘Ferne’ and the lullaby ‘Bei der Wiege’, both delivered with admirable purity by Sophie Daneman, hitherto known mostly as a Baroque specialist. Nathan Berg brings his dramatic gifts and rather more colourful voice to the Schubertian ‘Reiselied’ and ‘Jagdlied’. Eugene Asti’s deft playing provides lively support, and the inclusion of two songs by Fanny Mendelssohn is a nice touch. Stephen Maddock