British pianist Howard Shelley has released a large series of recordings for the Hyperion label, investigating unknown Romantic piano concerto repertoire. The piano music of Mendelssohn, although he wrote some 200 pieces that were quite celebrated in his own lifetime, might also fall into the unknown category except for the Songs without Words (Lieder ohne Worte), which Shelley has distributed among the six volumes of his projected series. Two sets of those appear at the end of this program, but the bulk of the music dates from Mendelssohn's teens and early twenties, when he was a hotshot new face on the scene and needed music for its own use. Some of it, like the Rondo capriccioso in E major, Op. 14, poses considerable technical challenges, and Shelley surmounts these with his usual efficiency. The virtuoso piano genre doesn't fire Mendelssohn's melodic imagination the way orchestral music would a few years later, but there are pieces here that deserve a more frequent place on concert programs. Sample the Fantasia in E major on "The Last Rose of Summer," Op. 15 (track 2), which departs from the variation idea to achieve a genuinely Romantic treatment of that well-worn tune and is full of bold ideas. This release is a must for Mendelssohn lovers, bringing together many pieces that are rarely heard in a convincing program.
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AllMusic Review by James Manheim
|Trois fantaisies ou caprices, Op. 16|
|Fantasia in F sharp minor, "Sonate écossaise", Op. 28|
|Sechs Lieder ohne Worte, Book 2, Op. 30|
|Sechs Lieder ohne worte, Book 3, Op. 38|