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Mendelssohn: Lieder Ohne Worte / Michael Korstick

Bartholdy / Korstick
Release Date: 04/24/2012 
Label:  Cpo   Catalog #: 777519   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Felix Mendelssohn
Performer:  Michael Korstick
Number of Discs: 2 
Recorded in: Stereo 
In Stock: Usually ships in 24 hours.  

Notes and Editorial Reviews



MENDELSSOHN Songs Without Words: opp. 19b, 30, 38, 53, 62, 67, 85, 102. Variations sérieuses Michael Korstick (pn) CPO 777 519-2 (2 CDs: 125:42)


Mendelssohn’s Songs Without Words are some of the composer’s most charming, well-crafted, and profoundly personal works. They represent not only the early-Romantic penchant for lyricism and at times virtuosity but they also characterize the Read more desire to express the inexpressible—to what extent are they pieces in which the words have been suppressed in order to stimulate the imagination of the listener? They were immensely popular during their day (inspiring even Charles Valentin Alkan in the composition of his numerous Recueil de Chants —some of them many years after Mendelssohn’s death) but soon lost favor with many musicians later in the century who felt them too conservative, too filled with the drawing-room sentimentality of past years. They are nothing of the sort. In the right hands—and there have been many who have included at least a handful of them in their repertoire, from Horowitz, Rachmaninoff, Hess, and Friedman to Gould, Serkin, and Gieseking—they are magical little gems.


This brings us to Michael Korstick. This German pianist first came to my attention when he recorded the Reger Piano Concerto along with the Bach-Busoni Concerto in D Minor. He has concentrated mostly on larger works in the recording studio—Beethoven’s “Hammerklavier” Sonata, Liszt’s Années de pèlerinage , Schubert’s B?-Sonata, Schumann’s Carnaval and Kreisleriana —but here seems just as relaxed in the smaller genres. The pianist is, without doubt, technically assured; his Spinning Song sounds effortless. He can be a bit heavy-handed in certain instances (compare his accounts of opp. 62/2 or 19b/3 to the more joyful, spirited, and bouncy interpretations by Perahia) and is a bit fussy and overly sentimental in certain cases (op. 67/1), but at his best he is imaginative and full of color, such as in opp. 62/3, 85/2, and 19b/1. The Variations sérieuses never suffered the same fate as its smaller companions here; it was and remains popular with many pianists. Korstick plays them, problematically, as if they were only a virtuosic tour de force , not a work infused with poetry from beginning to end. Neglecting a true buildup, a pacing that runs throughout the piece that heightens the work’s climax, the pianist chooses instead to shift drastically from slow to extremely fast and back again on numerous occasions. The piece feels broken, like a series of separate etudes that follow each other but are unrelated. When treated as such the piece loses perhaps its most important feature: its overall sense of drama.


While I have certain reservations about this set, it is among the finer accounts of the complete Songs Without Words that I’ve come across. I like it at least as much as Martin Jones’s and Annie d’Arco’s sets, and maybe just slightly less so than Dana Protopopescu’s version. It is still, in my opinion, far superior to my least favorite set: Daniel Barenboim’s extremely saccharine DG account. The present version is, however, in far better sound than any of these. For those interested in individual performances, Ignaz Friedman’s recording of only a handful of the Songs Without Words is still recommended; his is music-making of the highest caliber. Of the modern-day pianists both Schiff (on London/Decca) and Perahia (on Sony) have given me pleasure. In regards to the variations, though, this recording is not a winner. Sviatoslav Richter is still at the top of my list (either the EMI DVD or the Living Stage CD) for bringing out all of the important aspects of the piece: a singing line, sparkling clarity in the virtuosic passages, a consistent pacing throughout the work, and in the end a real sense of drama. So then, a mixed bag; for most of the smaller pieces a yes, for the variations a no.


FANFARE: Scott Noriega
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Works on This Recording

1. Songs without words, vol 1, Op. 19b by Felix Mendelssohn
Performer:  Michael Korstick (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1829-1830; Germany 
2. Songs without words, vol 2, Op. 30 by Felix Mendelssohn
Performer:  Michael Korstick (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1833-1834; Germany 
3. Songs without words, vol 3, Op. 38 by Felix Mendelssohn
Performer:  Michael Korstick (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1835-1837; Germany 
4. Songs without words, vol 4, Op. 53 by Felix Mendelssohn
Performer:  Michael Korstick (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1835-1841; Germany 
5. Songs without words, vol 5, Op. 62 by Felix Mendelssohn
Performer:  Michael Korstick (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1842-1844; Germany 
6. Songs without words, vol 6, Op. 67 by Felix Mendelssohn
Performer:  Michael Korstick (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1841-1845; Germany 
7. Songs without words, vol 7, Op. 85 by Felix Mendelssohn
Performer:  Michael Korstick (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1834-1845; Germany 
8. Songs without words, vol 8, Op. 102 by Felix Mendelssohn
Performer:  Michael Korstick (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1841-1845; Germany 
9. Variations Sérieuses (17) for Piano in D minor, Op. 54 by Felix Mendelssohn
Performer:  Michael Korstick (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1841; Germany 

Sound Samples

Variations serieuses in D minor, Op. 54
Lieder ohne Worte (Songs without Words), Book 1, Op. 19b: No. 1 in E major, Op. 19b, No. 1
Lieder ohne Worte (Songs without Words), Book 1, Op. 19b: No. 2 in A minor, Op. 19b, No. 2
Lieder ohne Worte (Songs without Words), Book 1, Op. 19b: No. 3 in A major, Op. 19b, No. 3, "Jagerlied"
Lieder ohne Worte (Songs without Words), Book 1, Op. 19b: No. 4 in A major, Op. 19b, No. 4
Lieder ohne Worte (Songs without Words), Book 1, Op. 19b: No. 5 in F sharp minor, Op. 19b, No. 5
Lieder ohne Worte (Songs without Words), Book 1, Op. 19b: No. 6 in G minor, Op. 19b, No. 6, "Venezianisches Gondellied"
Lieder ohne Worte (Songs without Words), Book 2, Op. 30: No. 7 in E flat major, Op. 30, No. 1
Lieder ohne Worte (Songs without Words), Book 2, Op. 30: No. 8 in B flat minor, Op. 30, No. 2
Lieder ohne Worte (Songs without Words), Book 2, Op. 30: No. 9 in E major, Op. 30, No. 3
Lieder ohne Worte (Songs without Words), Book 2, Op. 30: No. 10 in B minor, Op. 30, No. 4
Lieder ohne Worte (Songs without Words), Book 2, Op. 30: No. 11 in D major, Op. 30, No. 5
Lieder ohne Worte (Songs without Words), Book 2, Op. 30: No. 12 in F sharp minor, Op. 30, No. 6, "Venezianisches Gondellied"
Lieder ohne Worte (Songs without Words), Book 3, Op. 38: No. 13 in E flat major, Op. 38, No. 1
Lieder ohne Worte (Songs without Words), Book 3, Op. 38: No. 14 in C minor, Op. 38, No. 2
Lieder ohne Worte (Songs without Words), Book 3, Op. 38: No. 15 in E major, Op. 38, No. 3
Lieder ohne Worte (Songs without Words), Book 3, Op. 38: No. 16 in A major, Op. 38, No. 4
Lieder ohne Worte (Songs without Words), Book 3, Op. 38: No. 17 in A minor, Op. 38, No. 5
Lieder ohne Worte (Songs without Words), Book 3, Op. 38: No. 18 in A flat major, Op. 38, No. 6, "Duetto"
Lieder ohne Worte (Songs without Words), Book 4, Op. 53: No. 19 in A flat major, Op. 53, No. 1
Lieder ohne Worte (Songs without Words), Book 4, Op. 53: No. 20 in E flat major, Op. 53, No. 2
Lieder ohne Worte (Songs without Words), Book 4, Op. 53: No. 21 in G minor, Op. 53, No. 3
Lieder ohne Worte (Songs without Words), Book 4, Op. 53: No. 22 in F major, Op. 53, No. 4
Lieder ohne Worte (Songs without Words), Book 4, Op. 53: No. 23 in A minor, Op. 53, No. 5, "Volkslied"
Lieder ohne Worte (Songs without Words), Book 4, Op. 53: No. 24 in A major, Op. 53, No. 6
Lieder ohne Worte (Songs without Words), Book 5, Op. 62: No. 25 in G major, Op. 62, No. 1
Lieder ohne Worte (Songs without Words), Book 5, Op. 62: No. 26 in B flat major, Op. 62, No. 2
Lieder ohne Worte (Songs without Words), Book 5, Op. 62: No. 27 in E minor, Op. 62, No. 3, "Trauermarsch"
Lieder ohne Worte (Songs without Words), Book 5, Op. 62: No. 28 in G major, Op. 62, No. 4
Lieder ohne Worte (Songs without Words), Book 5, Op. 62: No. 29 in A minor, Op. 62, No. 5, "Venezianisches Gondellied"
Lieder ohne Worte (Songs without Words), Book 5, Op. 62: No. 30 in A major, Op. 62, No. 6, "Fruhlingslied" (Spring Song)
Lieder ohne Worte (Songs without Words), Book 6, Op. 67: No. 31 in E flat major, Op. 67, No. 1
Lieder ohne Worte (Songs without Words), Book 6, Op. 67: No. 32 in F sharp minor, Op. 67, No. 2
Lieder ohne Worte (Songs without Words), Book 6, Op. 67: No. 33 in B flat major, Op. 67, No. 3
Lieder ohne Worte (Songs without Words), Book 6, Op. 67: No. 34 in C major, Op. 67, No. 4, "Spinnerlied"
Lieder ohne Worte (Songs without Words), Book 6, Op. 67: No. 35 in B minor, Op. 67, No. 5
Lieder ohne Worte (Songs without Words), Book 6, Op. 67: No. 36 in E major, Op. 67, No. 6
Lieder ohne Worte (Songs without Words), Book 7, Op. 85: No. 37 in F major, Op. 85, No. 1
Lieder ohne Worte (Songs without Words), Book 7, Op. 85: No. 38 in A minor, Op. 85, No. 2
Lieder ohne Worte (Songs without Words), Book 7, Op. 85: No. 39 in E flat major, Op. 85, No. 3
Lieder ohne Worte (Songs without Words), Book 7, Op. 85: No. 40 in D major, Op. 85, No. 4
Lieder ohne Worte (Songs without Words), Book 7, Op. 85: No. 41 in A major, Op. 85, No. 5
Lieder ohne Worte (Songs without Words), Book 7, Op. 85: No. 42 in B flat major, Op. 85, No. 6
Lieder ohne Worte (Songs without Words), Book 8, Op. 102: No. 43 in E minor, Op. 102, No. 1
Lieder ohne Worte (Songs without Words), Book 8, Op. 102: No. 44 in D major, Op. 102, No. 2
Lieder ohne Worte (Songs without Words), Book 8, Op. 102: No. 45 in C major, Op. 102, No. 3
Lieder ohne Worte (Songs without Words), Book 8, Op. 102: No. 46 in G minor, Op. 102, No. 4
Lieder ohne Worte (Songs without Words), Book 8, Op. 102: No. 47 in A major, Op. 102, No. 5, "Kinderstuck"
Lieder ohne Worte (Songs without Words), Book 8, Op. 102: No. 48 in C major, Op. 102, No. 6

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