25 October 2022
By Ellie Palmer
It's been 175 years since the death of the German composer on 4 November 1847, but many of his pieces have continued to be firm favourites for pianists around the world in the decades since. Here are 5 to explore...
Mendelssohn wrote 48 Songs without Words which were divided into eight books. Book 5, the Opus 62 collection, was dedicated to Clara Schumann. Mendelssohn’s sister, Fanny Hensel, also composed pieces in this genre. Pianist Lucy Parham comments, ‘The energy and turbulent passion is the main reason I love to play this piece. As it’s not one of the most well-known Song without Words, it’s good to introduce these lesser-known ones to audiences too.’
Pianist Roberto Giordano performs Song without Words, Op 53 No 3
This piece comes from the sixth volume of the eight volumes of Songs without Words. ‘[Words] seem so ambiguous, so vague, so subject to misunderstanding when compared with true music, which fills the soul with a thousand better things than words,’ said Mendelssohn of his many songs without words. This piece dates from 1843-45.
Yuja Wang and clarinettist Andreas Ottensamer perform Song without Words in F sharp minor, Op 67 No 2
Arranged by Arnoldo Sartorio.
Virtually unknown today, German composer Arnoldo Sartorio was remembered by past audiences chiefly for pedagogical pieces written for his piano students to play. Many of these pieces were issued under pseudonyms, which include Felix Durand, T. Devrient, Arthur Dana, Carlotta Bocca, Christian Schäfer, and Victor Abelle. You can find another Sartorio arrangement for the left hand – that of Wagner’s ‘Pilgrim’s Chorus’ from the opera Tannhäuser – here.
4. Song without Words, Op 19 No 2
Mendelssohn produced eight volumes of Songs without Words, though only the first six volumes appeared during his lifetime. Each volume contains six short pieces varying in character and mood, much like the collection of songs for a singer. These pieces had a great influence on later composers of miniatures, and are much loved by pianists for their charm and accessibility.
This piece is the second in the first volume, which dates from 1829-30. Its nickname, 'Regrets', was not given to it by the composer, but does seem to suit its wistful mood. Many regard this piece as the most successful of the first volume of Songs without Words.
The sheet music for this piece, along with a step-by-step lesson, are available inside Pianist 67.
Listen to pianist Vadim Chaimovich play this piece
5. Inspired by Mendelssohn: Fauré's Song without Words, Op 17 No 3
Fauré was still a student in 1863 when he wrote the Trois romances sans paroles (Songs without Words). They were not published until 1880.
Pianist MX Chan performs Fauré's Mendelssohn-inspired piece