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With the pandemic, adjusting to working in the field of Engineering from home, and homeschooling our kids, I haven't been on PianoWorld recently. I thought I might say "Hi" and share a recent piano recording I made of Felix Mendelssohn's lyrical 'Song without Words' - "Duetto", Op. 38, No. 6:
Live Recording by Jason Solomonides, pianist on June 1, 2020 on Mason & Hamlin BB via ProRecord MIDI and PianoTeq 6.7.2; Audio created by VSL Synchron Concert D-274
This piece has resonated with me during this time of quarantine. It has great depth and solace, as one of my good friends, Pianist Jeff Barnhart, recently commented to me. I've been appreciating life these days with my wife Kerry, our now 8 year old twins Alexis and Keira, as well as taking the time to stop and listen with appreciation to God's creation. This song is the last piece that my teacher Prof. Raymond Hanson and I discussed (as part of a telephone "lesson') in August 2017, just prior to his 98th birthday, and his passing in October... and I just applied what we were talking about as I rehearsed it. Mr. Hanson's legato was memorable, he used to describe it like 'spreading peanut butter on a piece of bread'. That's the visual I think of as I see his hands playing these 'Songs without Words'.
P.S. Notice the watercolor at the end of the YouTube video... it is a watercolor painted by Felix Mendelssohn himself of a “View of Lucerne”, in 1847. Mendelssohn was quite a talented artist in so many ways!
You play this piece with a sensitive legato touch and appropriately 'wet' pedalling. I particularly like how you voice the melodic line above the accompaniment, without having to highlight it too overtly, thus retaining the gentle, flowing nature of the music. While i have not played the piece myself, i might just use a little more rubato at parts - but that's just my preference. Overall, i enjoyed this performance, and thanks for sharing.
Sauter Delta 185, Bosendorfer 225, Ibach F III 215
One interesting thing about this piece is the extremely wide tempos that great pianists use when playing it. I happen to like your slow tempo like Gilels' performance. De Larrocha plays it around one minute faster and Schiff plays it two minutes faster.
Thank you Wxkit1, Moo ':) and pianoloverus for your kind words and comments.
I also have found it very intriguing at the wide variation in tempos by artists that I greatly admire. According to the liner notes by Andrew Porter from Walter Gieseking's Angel 35428 recording, Op.38, No.6 (1956) was given the title "Duetto" by Mendelssohn, since the "two (alternating soprano and tenor) melodies were written to represent two singers. It was composed in Frankfurt in June 1836, soon after he had met his future wife", Cécile Jeanrenaud. The recording that most inspired me was, as you mentioned, the 1983 live recording of "Duetto" by Emil Gilels at his recital in Moscow.
The piece is marked by the composer, "Die beiden Stimmen müssen immer sehr deutlich hervorgehoben werden", which translated means, "The two voices must always be emphasized very clearly". It is also marked, 'Andante con moto', which would imply 'at a moderately slow tempo... with movement'. So what does this mean? IMHO Andras Schiff's recording although melodic, does not adhere to these markings. But how about those of Alicia DeLarrocha or even Murray Perahia? One could argue that these are melodic and moderately slow... with movement... with the focus on the movement. The Perahia recording in particular is the standard that I had internally digested and a very beautiful interpretation... until I heard the absolutely touching Gilels performance a few years ago and started thinking about what the piece represented. A beautiful conversation between a man and a woman; a "wedding present", as some have represented, by Felix for his future wife Cécile. In my mind such a conversation would not be rushed but savored. I actually have practiced it a much faster tempos when I was learning the piece, and have found it much more difficult to play "slowly and controlled". One's tendency is to speed up as the piece progresses or even use excessive amounts of rubato... but the focus must always be on maintaining an easy and relaxed hand posture, with never ending singing and legato lines representing the loving conversation. Anyway, I am continuing to work on the piece and would like to make it an encore staple for future recitals. Well, those are my quick thoughts as I prepare for another day at work from home in Engineering. Thanks again!
Beautiful, thank-you. It's a piece I haven't heard (or played) for many years and I was just thinking about it the other day. Very tempted to search it out again after that - although no, I didn't used to play it as well as you....
I really appreciate your kind words. It seems that over the years I have discovered that there are quite a few Lyrical Works or "Songs without Words" written in the key of Ab Major, by romantic era contemporaries: Mendelssohn, Liszt, Chopin and Brahms; the first three all born between 1809-1811. The 'Duetto' is one such example written in Ab. Liszt's transcription of Mendelssohn's "On Wings of Song", is another such example, as is Liszt's famous Liebestraum No. 3 'O Lieb', S.541, Chopin's "Aeolian Harp" Etude Op.25, No.1, and Brahms' famous Waltz Op.39, No.15. All of these are presently in my fingers as part of a future recital program, and I have recently made new recordings of each - except for the Brahms. I recall having a conversation with a good friend of mine on PianoWorld who once mentioned that "the problem for me is the key of A-flat Major". He had recently spent a significant amount of time "practicing that scale and its relative minor and dreaded it every day." But I am rather enjoying learning and performing works in this key. I've recently had a running joke with my wife that perhaps I should release an album called "Much Ado About Nothing in Ab"!
Anyway, here is my recent recording of another "Song without Words" written again in the key of Ab. Franz Liszt's “Au lac de Wallenstadt”, S.160, No.2, from Annees de Pelerinage, 'Suisse'. I recorded and performed it at my mom's memorial service last year:
Late response, but that is beautiful. I'm ashamed to say that I bought the score for that piece many years ago, had a brief play through it and decided that it wasn't worth the effort (it ain't that easy to play!) So thank-you for posting that, now I know better!