Sonata in B flat major, opus 106
Variations Sérieuses in D minor, opus 54
Fantaisies, opus 16
Fantasia in F sharp minor, opus 28 "sonata écossaise'
Rec 17-19 April 2000, Cologne
ARTE NOVA 74321 76808 2
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Matthias Kirschnereit is a very talented pianist, and the Arte Nova engineers
have captured his Mendelssohn performances in atmospheric and truthful sound.
This disc will do much to enhance his reputation beyond Germany, where he
is already known as one of the leading pianists of the younger generation,
although he has toured widely in Europe and Australia.
Mendelssohn's piano music is of particular interest to developing our
understanding of the early romantic period. Kirschnereit's programme highlights
both its strengths and its possible weaknesses (these will depend on the
listener's tolerance of light, darting phrases). The masterpiece on this
CD is undoubtedly the Variations sérieuses, and it is tempting
to declare that it receives the best performance. Such a judgement may simply
be a reflection of the fact that the music has the greatest substance, however.
Be that as it may, there is no question that the interpretation does credit
to the power and vision of the music, and its keenly argued and subtle
development. In fact it is worth the price of the disc on its own (though
given the bargain Arte Nova price this is not intended to sound like faint
The other music is more likely to charm than to move the listener. The Sonata
is an early piece from 1827 - by which time Mendelssohn had already composed
the Midsummer Night's Dream Overture and the Octet - but it is not
a masterpiece to rank among the best of his keyboard works. It was published
posthumously as opus 106, and if this opus number conjures the portentous
name of Beethoven (it is that of the powerful Hammerklavier Sonata),
it is no coincidence, since the publisher Julius Rietz chose it to acknowledge
Mendelssohn's liking for Beethoven's masterpiece. But one wonders why the
link should be encouraged, since Mendelssohn's manner is altogether lighter.
As ever, the quicksilver Scherzo shows the composer at his mercurial
The Trois fantaisies (1829) are lightly romantic mood pieces, while
the F sharp minor Fantasy, originally called Sonate
écossaise, as composed in 1828 and revised five years later when
the composer's interest in piano music was at its height. It is cast as a
slow introduction leading to a sonata form, and it makes a telling impression
in this elegantly crafted performance. Kirschnereit responds sensitively
to Mendelssohn's piano style and, while the sound occasionally seems heavy,
the touch is always alert to the composer's light textures as well as the
romantic turns of phrase.