Songs Without Words – Wikipedia

Songs Without Words ( Lieder ohne Worte ) is a series of short lyric piano songs by the Romantic composer Felix Mendelssohn, written between 1829 and 1845. His sister Fanny Mendelssohn and other composers besides wrote pieces in the lapp genre .

music [edit ]

The eight volumes of Songs Without Words, each consisting of six songs ( Lieder ), were written at respective points throughout Mendelssohn ‘s animation, and were published individually. The piano became increasingly popular in Europe during the early nineteenth century, when it became a standard item in many middle-class households. The pieces are within the grok of pianists of assorted abilities and this undoubtedly contributed to their popularity. This great popularity has caused many critics to under-rate their musical value. [ citation needed ] The first volume was published by Novello in London ( 1832 ) as Original Melodies for the Pianoforte, but the late volumes used the title Songs Without Words. [ 1 ] The works were contribution of the romantic tradition of writing short-change lyric pieces for the piano, although the specific concept of “ Songs Without Words ” was modern. Mendelssohn ‘s sister Fanny wrote a number of like pieces ( though not sol entitled ) and, according to some music historians, she may have helped inspire the concept. The deed Song Without Words seems to have been Felix Mendelssohn ‘s own invention. In 1828, Fanny wrote in a letter “ My birthday was celebrated very nicely … Felix has given me a ‘song without words ‘ for my album ( he has recently written respective beautiful ones ). ” [ 1 ]

Mendelssohn himself resisted attempts to interpret the songs besides literally, and objected when his acquaintance Marc-André Souchay sought to put words to them to make them actual songs :

What the music I love expresses to me, is not thought excessively indefinite to put into words, but on the contrary, excessively definite. ( Mendelssohn ‘s own italics ) [ 2 ]

Mendelssohn besides wrote other Songs Without Words not collected in volumes, and published only in recent years. furthermore, original drafts exist for many of the ‘Songs ‘ many of which differ quite well from the finally published versions. [ 3 ] In 2008, the italian pianist Roberto Prosseda recorded a solicitation of Mendelssohn ‘s Songs Without Words for Decca Records totalling 56 Lieder, some of them never recorded before .

Songs [edit ]

The titles attributed to some of the songs below were given by Mendelssohn himself. [ 4 ] [ failed verification ] other fanciful titles were given to certain of them by late publishers but have no agency and do not reflect any intention of the composer .

Book 1, Op. 19b ( 1829–30 ) [edit ]

  1. Andante con moto (E major)
  2. Andante espressivo (A minor)
  3. Molto allegro e vivace (A major)
  4. Moderato (A major)
  5. Poco agitato (F


  6. Andante sostenuto: Venetianisches Gondellied (“Venetian Boat Song”) (G minor)

Book 2, Op. 30 ( 1833–34 ) [edit ]

  1. Andante espressivo (E


  2. Allegro di molto (B


  3. Adagio non troppo (E major)
  4. Agitato e con fuoco (B minor)
  5. Andante grazioso (D major)
  6. Allegretto tranquillo: Venetianisches Gondellied (“Venetian Boat Song”) (F


Book 2 was dedicated to Elisa von Woringen. [ 5 ] Song number 2 was written for his sister Fanny to celebrate the birth of her son in 1830. [ 1 ]

Book 3, Op. 38 ( 1836–37 ) [edit ]

  1. Con moto (E


  2. Allegro non troppo (C minor)
  3. Presto e molto vivace (E major)
  4. Andante (A major)
  5. Agitato (A minor)
  6. Andante con moto: Duetto (“Duet”) (A


Song act 6 was given the championship Duetto by Mendelssohn, since two melodies were written to represent two singers. It was composed in Frankfurt in June 1836, soon after he had met his future wife. [ 1 ] Book 3 was dedicated to Rosa von Woringen. [ 5 ]

Book 4, Op. 53 ( 1839–41 ) [edit ]

  1. Andante con moto (A


  2. Allegro non troppo (E


  3. Presto agitato (G minor)
  4. Adagio (F major)
  5. Allegro con fuoco: Volkslied (“Folksong”) (A minor)
  6. Molto allegro vivace (A major)

Book 4 was dedicated to Sophia Horsley. [ 1 ]

Book 5, Op. 62 ( 1842–44 ) [edit ]

  1. Andante espressivo (G major)
  2. Allegro con fuoco (B


  3. Andante maestoso: Trauermarsch (“Funeral march”) (E minor)
  4. Allegro con anima (G major)
  5. Andante con moto: Venetianisches Gondellied (“Venetian Boat Song”) (A minor)
  6. Allegretto grazioso: Frühlingslied (“Spring Song”) (A major)

Song No. 6 “ spring song ” was besides sometimes known in England as “ Camberwell Green “, being the place in London where Mendelssohn composed it while staying with the Benneckes, relatives of his wife. [ 1 ] Book 5 was dedicated to Clara Schumann. [ 1 ]

Book 6, Op. 67 ( 1843–45 ) [edit ]

  1. Andante (E


  2. Allegro leggiero (F


  3. Andante tranquillo (B


  4. Presto: Spinnerlied (“Spinner’s Song”) (C major)
  5. Moderato (B minor)
  6. Allegro non troppo (E major)

The Spinnerlied has besides been given the nickname the “ Bee ‘s marry ” since the busy accompaniment to the tune resembles the buzz of bees. Book 6 was dedicated to Sophie Rosen. [ 1 ]

Book 7, Op. 85 ( 1843–45 ) [edit ]

  1. Andante espressivo (F major)
  2. Allegro agitato (A minor)
  3. Presto (E


  4. Andante sostenuto (D major)
  5. Allegretto (A major)
  6. Allegretto con moto (B


This book, and Book 8, were published posthumously .

Book 8, Op. 102 ( 1842–45 ) [edit ]

  1. Andante un poco agitato (E minor)
  2. Adagio (D major)
  3. Presto (C major)
  4. Un poco agitato, ma andante (G minor)
  5. Allegro vivace (A major)
  6. Andante (C major)

Related works [edit ]

A patch in D major for cello and piano, written by Mendelssohn around 1845 for cellist Lisa Cristiani, was published for the first time after his death. It was designated Opus 109 and entitled Song Without Words. It is not related to any of the piano pieces. [ 6 ] Cellist Carlos Prieto called the patch “ an exquisite constitution, worthy of the finest pieces Mendelssohn ever composed for this genre. ” [ 7 ] A nibble for piano in E minor by Mendelssohn was published after his death under Op. 117, entitled Albumblatt ( “ Album Leaf ” ) ; [ 8 ] a further piece for piano by Mendelssohn was published after his death, without musical composition numeral, listed as WoO 10, titled Gondellied ( “ Gondola Song ” ). [ 9 ] Some historians believe these to have been intended for another set of Songs Without Words .

Arrangements [edit ]

Mendelssohn made piano pas de deux arrangements of a number of the songs, namely those that became Book 5 and the inaugural birdcall of Book 6, which he presented to Queen Victoria in 1844. [ 10 ] Mendelssohn was besides mindful of arrangements of some of the earlier Lieder for piano couple by Carl Czerny. [ 11 ] many others have made respective arrangements of individual songs, including for orchestra, chamber ensemble, or solo instrumental role with piano escort. One such exemplar is the arrangement of 22 of the songs by Mendelssohn ‘s student, the german violist Friedrich Hermann ( 1828–1907 ), for violin and piano. [ 12 ] In 1834, Franz Liszt wrote his Grosses Konzertstück über Mendelssohns Lieder ohne Worte ( Grand Concert Piece on Mendelssohn’s Songs Without Words ) for 2 pianos. This was based on songs 1–3 of Book I, Op. 19b. [ 13 ] Liszt and a student, Mlle. Vial, started to play it in Paris on 9 April 1835 [ 14 ] but Liszt became ill during the operation. Ferruccio Busoni planned to play it in London with Egon Petri, but died before the design could be realised. It was ultimately first performed in full by Richard and John Contiguglia at the 1984 Holland Liszt Festival in Utrecht. [ 15 ] There are besides examples of recordings of transcriptions, for solo instrument and piano accompaniment, of Mendelssohn lieder written for the articulation, which have been entitled “ Songs Without Words ”, for case by Mischa Maisky. No such arrangements were however made, or indeed titled, by Mendelssohn himself .

By other composers [edit ]

Fanny Mendelssohn ‘s early collections of piano works opp. 2,6, and 8 are titled Lieder für das Pianoforte (Songs for the piano). other composers who were inspired to produce similar sets of pieces of their own included Charles-Valentin Alkan ( the five sets of Chants, each ending with a barcarole ), Anton Rubinstein, Ignaz Moscheles and Edvard Grieg ( his 66 Lyric Pieces ). Two Songs Without Words ( Op. 10 ) for piano were besides written by Mykola Lysenko. Both Alkan and Rubinstein frequently included items from Mendelssohn ‘s Songs in their recitals. Ferruccio Busoni, who considered Mendelssohn “ a passkey of undisputed greatness ”, turned to the Songs Without Words in the last year of his life for a project serial of recitals in London .

Notes [edit ]

References [edit ]

  • Felix Mendelssohn, Letters, Philadelphia, 1864
  • R. Larry Todd, Mendelssohn: A Life in Music, Oxford, 2003.
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Category : music

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