I must admit - I've never really gotten into Mendelssohn's music. I don't quite know why; it's not as though I don't enjoy it or am not moved by it. I just have never felt the urge to seriously learn or perform any of his piano music. When I think about it, this music has always had some sort of presence in my life - I remember as a child listening to Rachmaninoff's recording of the Spinning Song over and over again. I also remember hearing Horowitz's live recording of the Scherzo a capriccio for the first time when I was about ten. And Rudolf Serkin's recordings of the two Piano Concerti were a source of constant delight and interest when I was a teenager - I can still vividly hear every nuance of those recordings in my head.
Who knows why or how these things happen, but for some reason at about midnight last night, while brainstorming some program ideas, I found myself at the piano playing through a number of the Songs Without Words. These are groups of piano pieces, some tender, some passionate, all quite brief - and all quite lovely and fun to play. I found myself, for the better part of an hour, enjoying this music and wondering why I had purchased those three volumes of Mendelssohn's complete piano music all those years ago - and almost never opened them.
2009 is Mr. Mendelssohn's 200th birthday year. Who knows if I will be programming any of his music - but I was indeed very happy I took that hour to enjoy some of his most inspired work.
Here is a touching performance by Ignaz Friedman of two of Mendelssohn's Songs Without Words - so that you may enjoy it as well.