About this Recording
8.578079-80 - Easy-Listening Piano Classics: Mendelssohn and Field

Naxos’ Easy-Listening Piano Classics presents a delightful range of music from Baroque masterpieces to beautiful works of the Classic and Romantic eras, specially selected for discerning listeners to enjoy at home or work, while relaxing, entertaining or travelling.


The names of Romantic composers John Field (1782–1837) and Felix Mendelssohn (1809–1847) are not often as closely linked as those of Field and Chopin (the latter’s Nocturnes having been inspired by the former’s), yet as masters of early Romantic piano music they travel very well together indeed. John Field was born in Dublin, the son of a violinist, but moved with his family to London in 1793, perhaps taking violin lessons from Haydn’s friend Salomon. He became an apprentice of Clementi, appearing in a series of important London concerts, and later touring widely. After concerts in Russia, he remained in St Petersburg, where he became a fashionable teacher and performer, moving to Moscow in 1821. Illness brought him, in 1831, to London again, a visit followed by a continental tour and a final return to Moscow, where he died. Although Field wrote seven piano concertos and a series of chamber compositions for piano and strings, his chief claim on posterity lies in his eighteen Nocturnes. These ‘night pieces’ feature song-like melodies over arpeggiated accompaniments whose moods are often lyrical and dreamy.

Felix Mendelssohn, grandson of the distinguished Jewish thinker Moses Mendelssohn, was born in Hamburg, the son of a banker. The family moved to Berlin, where Mendelssohn was brought up, able to associate with a cultured circle of family friends. He was associated with the revival of public interest in the music of J.S. Bach and in the early 1830s travelled abroad for his education, spending time in Italy and also visiting England, Wales and Scotland. He was later conductor of the Gewandhaus Orchestra in Leipzig, where he also established a Conservatory, his stay there interrupted briefly by a return to Berlin. He died in Leipzig. Prolific and precocious, Mendelssohn had many gifts as composer, conductor and pianist. His style of composition combined something of the economy of means of the Classical period with the Romanticism of a later age.

The 19th Century was the age of the piano, a period in which the instrument, newly developed, became an essential item of household furniture and the centre of domestic music-making. Short piano pieces always found a ready market, none more than Mendelssohn’s eight albums of Lieder ohne Worte (Songs without Words), a novel title that admirably describes the length, quality and intention of these short pieces. However, he also composed a significant number of other piano pieces, including the Preludes, Christmas Pieces, the Barcarolle and Piano Sonata in E major, which while less well known are no less deserving of our attention and enjoyment. While echoes may be heard of Mozart and Beethoven, Mendelssohn’s music always has its own exquisite personality, and his originality is currently becoming more deeply appreciated. Perhaps the extraordinary popularity Mendelssohn enjoyed during his lifetime has counted against him (Queen Victoria is said to have liked his music better than that of Chopin), and while many of his piano pieces are ideal as parlour recital items, Mendelssohn’s graceful sophistication places them above countless more sentimental examples by far less talented contemporaries.

If you’ve enjoyed this album, why not try these titles as well?

8.550761 FIELD: Piano Music, Vol. 1
8.550762 FIELD: Piano Music, Vol. 2
8.550939 MENDELSSOHN: 6 Preludes and Fugues, Op. 35 / 3 Caprices, Op. 37
8.553186 MENDELSSOHN: Sonata in B Flat Major / Fantasies, Op. 16
8.550940 MENDELSSOHN: Sonata in E Major / Variations serieuses / Preludes and Etudes, Op. 104
8.553358 MENDELSSOHN: Sonata in G Minor / Fantasia, Op. 15 / Variations, Op. 83
8.550316 MENDELSSOHN: Songs without Words, Vol. 1
8.550453 MENDELSSOHN: Songs without Words, Vol. 2

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