Felix Mendelssohn

Prelude & Fugue for piano in E minor/E major, Op. 35/1

    Description by Blair Johnston

    Most of Felix Mendelssohn's Opus 35, a set of six prelude-fugue pairs for piano solo, was written during the mid-1830s -- starting in about 1832 and gaining momentum as the 1837 date of publication approached. Op. 35, No. 1 is, however, an exception to this; its fugue seems to have been composed all the way back in 1827. It is often listed as the Prelude and Fugue, Op. 35, No. 1, in E minor/E major. But this is misleading, implying as it does that the prelude is in E minor and the fugue in E major. In fact, only at the tail end of the fugue does Mendelssohn make the switch from minor to major, and it is better to keep things simple and just say that it is in E minor.

    Unlike the fugue that follows it, the prelude of Op. 35, No. 1 has never found a chronological home; no one seems quite sure when Mendelssohn wrote it, although 1832 or 1833 seem the most likely candidates. It is florid, and thick with always-rising arpeggios that fall nicely to the hand. Amidst this translucent Allegro con fuoco texture there is an angst-filled middle-voice melody; every so often a moving bass line pops up to support the froth above.

    Mendelssohn was keen to trample on some of the previous few centuries' hallowed rules of melody-construction when he sat down to write the subject for the fugue: tritones abound, and the likewise forbidden intervals of the augmented second and the diminished fourth(!) find their way in as well. The fugue is in four voices, and reaches a climax in sixteenth notes that gives way at the end to a "Chorale" in E major.

    Parts/Movements

    1. Prelude
    2. Fugue

    Appears On

    Year Title Label Catalog #
    2014 Harmonia Mundi HMC 902195
    2014 Haenssler 93725
    2013 Doremi Records DHR 6010
    2012 Bridge BRIDGE 9367
    2012 Doron Music 5034
    2012 Sony Classical 88691912562
    2010 Cambria 1174
    2009 Brilliant Classics 93912
    2009 Denon Records
    2009 Sony Music Entertainment 88697420722
    2008 Rca Red Seal 730824
    2007 BBC Legends / BBC Music 42112
    2006 Decca 4757221
    2006 Decca
    2005 Sony Music Distribution 517721
    2005 IFO 131
    2001 Nimbus 1739
    2000 Equilibrium 19
    1999 CBC Records MVCD1122
    1999 Philips 454987
    1999 JAV Recordings JAV114
    1999 Biddulph Recordings LHW034
    1998 Philips 456856
    1987 Sony Classical 42401
    1985 CBS Records 37838
    Marston 52036
    MDG 4487
    GM Recordings 2024
    Opus 111 2073