MusicWeb International One of the most grown-up review sites around   2022
 57,903 reviews
   and more ... and still writing ...

Search MusicWeb Here
Acte Prealable Polish CDs

Presto Music CD retailer
Founder: Len Mullenger                                    Editor in Chief:John Quinn             

Some items
to consider

new MWI
Current reviews

old MWI
pre-2023 reviews

paid for

Acte Prealable Polish recordings

Forgotten Recordings
Forgotten Recordings
All Forgotten Records Reviews

Troubadisc Weinberg- TROCD01450

All Troubadisc reviews

FOGHORN Classics

Brahms String Quartets

All Foghorn Reviews

All HDTT reviews

Songs to Harp from
the Old and New World

all Nimbus reviews

all tudor reviews

Follow us on Twitter

Editorial Board
MusicWeb International
Founding Editor
Rob Barnett
Editor in Chief
John Quinn
Contributing Editor
Ralph Moore
   David Barker
Jonathan Woolf
MusicWeb Founder
   Len Mullenger

Mendelssohn songsV1 CHAN20252
Support us financially by purchasing from

Felix MENDELSSOHN (1809-1847)
Lieder ohne Worte - Volume 1
Rondo capriccioso, Op. 14 (1828, rev 1830) [6:59]
Trois Fantasies ou Caprices, Op. 16 (1829) [11:46]
Selections from Books 1–6 and 8 from Songs Without Words (1829–1845) [60:58]
Peter Donohoe (piano)
rec. 4-6 May 2021, Potton Hall, Dunwich, Suffolk
CHANDOS CHAN20252 [79:56]

The denizens of the 21st century, not content with burdening the living with their overwrought neuroses, have taken to hijacking the past in order to refashion the dead in their own miserable likeness. Felix Mendelssohn - whose ghost one would have thought had suffered enough in the 20th century from the vituperative legacy of his artistic antipode Richard Wagner - has not been spared; coming under attack for, among other things, his religious piety and his “patriarchal” oppression of his sister Fanny (whom some now claim was the more talented of the two siblings). Then there are those who are merely chafed by his “gentle genius” reputation and wish, instead, to give him a sad-boy makeover.

For a moment, I thought Peter Donohoe was indulging in a bit of the latter when I sampled this disc from Chandos, the first volume in a projected set of the complete Songs Without Words. His phrasing of the late Op. 102, no. 1, for example, has a tango-like quality I have never heard on other recordings (accented, perhaps, by the piece’s unintended anticipation of Nino Rota’s theme from The Godfather heard at 0:43). The effect is almost as if Mendelssohn had packed his bags for the demimonde of early 20th century Buenos Aires.

Donohoe is no revisionist, thankfully, and his playing of these idiosyncratically programmed selections from the Songs Without Words proves that he comes as a friend. Which is not to say that he does not have his own, sometimes forceful ideas about how these ought to sound. His playing of Op. 19, no. 3 (“Hunting Song”) and Op. 67, no. 2 lunge with unexpected heft, their melodic phrases tapered with rubati that impart a touch of Brahmsian reflectiveness.

His approach works best in the more contemplative Songs Without Words, such as the lovely Op. 30, no. 3, which here acquires a sweet melancholy that is evocatively Schumannesque. The Op. 62, no. 5 (“Venetian Gondola Song”) becomes in this pianist’s hands a tone poem in miniature, thanks to his judicious shading of inner voices and dynamics.

Donohoe’s handling of the Rondo capriccioso and Trois Fantasies ou Caprices, which open this disc, are both fine, if brawnier than one is accustomed to.

My copy of this disc had a printing error which resulted in the excision of most of Bayan Northcott’s liner notes (including their French translation). Fortunately, Donohoe’s personal essay was unaffected and is well worth reading.

In many respects, Donohoe is comparable to Daniel Barenboim on his 1973 set of the Songs Without Words (Deutsche Grammophon), although the latter’s over-calculated mannerisms and general stodginess make this Chandos disc a superior alternative. My favorites of the complete Songs Without Words are Ania Dorfmann (Sony) and Ginette Doyen (Nihon Westminster). Although Walter Gieseking did not record the entire set, his utterly magical reading of selections (last available on a long-deleted EMI Références double-disc) is practically mandatory listening for lovers of these works. To these, I am grateful to add Donohoe, whose strengths bring much enjoyment in these evergreen and deceptively tricky works.

Néstor Castiglione

Previous review: Michael Greenhalgh

1. Rondo capriccioso, Op 14, MWV U 67 (1830) [6:59]
2-4. Trois Fantaisies ou Caprices, Op 16, MWV U 70-72 (1829) [11:46]
5. Lied ohne Worte, Op 19b/1, MWV U 86 (1830) [3:56]
6. LoW, Op 19b/2, MWV U 80 (1830) [2:34]
7. LoW, Op 19b/3, MWV U 89, Jägerlied (1829) [2:30]
8. LoW, Op 19b/4, MWV U 73 (1829) [2:04]
9. LoW, Op 102/1, MWV U 162 (1842) [2:27]
10. LoW, Op 102/2, MWV U 192 (1845) [2:31]
11. LoW, Op 67/5, MWV U 184 (1844) [2:01]
12. LoW, Op 67/2, MWV U 145 (1839/45) [2:04]
13. LoW, Op 62/6, MWV U 161, Frühlingslied (1842) [2:41]
14. LoW, Op 30/3, MWV U 104 (1834) [2:20]
15. LoW, Op 53/5, MWV U 153, Volkslied (1841) [2:44]
16. LoW, Op 62/3, MWV U 177, Trauermarsch (1843) [3:26]
17. LoW, Op 30/4, MWV U 98 (1834) [2:47]
18. LoW, Op 62/4, MWV U 175 (184) [1:43]
19. LoW, Op 62/5, MWV U 151, Venetianisches Gondellied (1841) [3:01]
20. LoW, Op 67/4, MWV U 182, Spinnerlied (1845) [1:52]
21. LoW, Op 53/4, MWV U 114, Abendlied (1841) [2:34]
22. LoW, Op 102/6, MWV U 172 (date uncertain) [2:22]
23. LoW, Op 62/1, MWV U 185 (1844) [1:59]
24. LoW, Op 67/1, MWV U 180 (1843) [2:48]
25. LoW, Op 38/2, MWV U 115 (1837) [2:22]
26. LoW, Op 53/2, MWV U 109 (1835) [2:57]
27. LoW, Op 67/3, MWV U 102 (1844) [2:21]
28. LoW, Op 38/6, MWV U 119, Duetto (1836) [2:43]

Advertising on

Donate and keep us afloat


New Releases

Naxos Classical
All Naxos reviews

Chandos recordings
All Chandos reviews

Hyperion recordings
All Hyperion reviews

Foghorn recordings
All Foghorn reviews

Troubadisc recordings
All Troubadisc reviews

all cpo reviews

Divine Art recordings
Click to see New Releases
Get 10% off using code musicweb10
All Divine Art reviews

All APR reviews

Lyrita recordings
All Lyrita Reviews


Wyastone New Releases
Obtain 10% discount