Fanny Mendelssohn: Das Jahr

COMPOSERS: Fanny Mendelssohn
LABELS: Sony
ALBUM TITLE: Fanny Mendelssohn
WORKS: Das Jahr
PERFORMER: Lauma Skride (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 88697030162
Famously overshadowed by her younger brother, Fanny Mendelssohn’s struggle for recognition at last has some ammunition, with a handful of decent recordings and her work increasingly available in print. Das Jahr – a cycle of 13 character pieces, one for each month of the year plus an epilogue – is one of her most important works. Composed in 1841 (so predating Tchaikovsky’s monthly cycle The Seasons by 35 years), it was inspired by a year travelling through Italy with her husband, Wilhelm Hensel, just a short time after Liszt journeyed through the same country, as

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later documented in his Années de pèlerinage.

Fanny Mendelssohn’s influences are more domestic and internalized than Liszt’s, and her style is, unsurprisingly, closer to her brother’s and to Schumann. But although this work stems from a happy time in Fanny Mendelssohn’s life, a seam of dignified melancholy runs through it, and we find a raw emotional intensity than is uncommon in Felix’s music.

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The Latvian pianist Lauma Skride exudes warmth and sensitivity. Her lyricism, natural phrasing and expert pedalling are compelling; the haunting quality she brings to the rippling figuration of ‘September’ is magical. She sometimes errs on the side of understatement, but is always fluently stylish. The sound is decent, but for such interesting repertoire the booklet notes are sadly inadequate. Nevertheless, a super disc. Tim Parry