> MENDELSSOHN Complete Works for Piano Four-Hands [KS]: Classical CD Reviews- Aug 2002 MusicWeb(UK)






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Felix MENDELSSOHN (1809-1847)
Complete Works for Piano Four-Hands

Octet, opus 20; Andante e Allegro brilliant, opus 92; Andante con variazioni, opus 83a.
Begoña Uriarte and Karl-Hermann Mrongovius, pianists
Live Recording, Camponogara, Venice, Italy, March 2001, DDD
ARTS 47622-2 [58í24]

www.artsmusic.de


Two centuries ago, when transportation was crude and recorded sound was non-existent, the only way for composers to bring their music to a wider audience was through printed arrangements for the piano, which could be played in the home. Publishers were more than eager to provide the public with these arrangements, and they were consumed avidly. Thus it is that many of the major symphonic and chamber works of the nineteenth century also appeared in versions for piano solo, two pianos or one piano, four hands.

Brahms, in order to make sure that no hack mangled his music, made dozens of piano arrangements of his works himself. It would appear that Mendelssohn wasnít as concerned with quality control, and produced far fewer works in the genre than did his younger colleague. Much of the four-hand music of the day was intended for amateurs, and therefore was not as technically demanding as music for the piano soloist. Not so in this case, as it is evident that Mendelssohn put forth the fullness of his virtuosity in his own piano arrangement of the Octet, opus 20, and in the two works actually intended for four-hand piano presented here.

Originally for strings, the octet in this guise is still a magnificent piece. Pianists Uriarte and Mrongovius give us some very fine ensemble playing, and they take great care to shade and color this music with fine brushes. I have often found that four-hand piano literature is great fun to play and not so hot to listen to. Since it is often the case that the full scope of the piano keyboard is sounding at once, it is difficult to create the nuances of sound that one pianist can accomplish by moving about the range of octaves. This duo sees to it that a variance of color, articulation and dynamics are constantly observed, engaging the listener from the get-go and keeping us tuned in throughout the performance.

Using the piano as if it were and orchestra, these two musicians are top notch. Melodic passages are truly cantabile, that which needs articulation gets it, virtuoso sections are indeed thrilling, and most important of all, they play in splendid ensemble.

Mendelssohn, in my view, was one of the master tunesmiths of the nineteenth century. Sure, Schubert wrote some mighty fine songs, but what Felix could do with a melody is often nothing short of miraculous. This gift for melody is no more evident than in the thoroughly beautiful Andante movement of the Andante e Allegro brilliant, opus 92, from 1841. A late work, this is craftsmanship of the first order. And as soon as the lovely song is finished, we are taken on a splendid carriage ride in the allegro section. Again, our pianists are a delight.

We get another lovely tune in the Andante con Variazioni, opus 83a, which along with the above-mentioned work were published after Mendelssohnís death. The variations are fun and sprightly, simultaneously elegant and virtuosic.

Sound quality for this live recording is amazingly good, with no detectable audience or background noise. As with many a classical CD these days, the program notes are lame, and not particularly insightful. At least they are grammatically correct and adequately translated from their original German. Arts is another of the spate of inexpensive classical labels that consistently offer a treasure trove of interesting releases. This one is certainly worth seeking out.

Kevin Sutton


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