Much charm informs Felix Mendelssohn’s Songs without Words. Javier Perianes makes fifteen selections from the numerous collections and chooses some popular gems – pieces that are very well-known if perhaps not immediately identifiable. Nevertheless here is romantic musical poetry, rivalling Chopin’s at times, which Perianes taps into with sensitivity, affection and unaffected artistry, bringing out the picturesque nature of each one – and what lovely music this is, so expressive and warmly harmonised as to paint pictures. Perianes shapes and shades these moreish miniatures with poise, ensuring that they reach a grateful listener with an affecting turn of phrase, and there is also much poignancy (try track 5, Opus 38/6). When something niftier and more-agitated is needed, Perianes is quick-witted and agile, never forced or pushy. This is wonderful music, beautifully played.
Also included are further examples of Mendelssohn’s creative genius in writing for the piano. The Andante con variazioni begins as a lullaby but Mendelssohn’s diversity with a simple tune soon becomes apparent. If some of the Songs without Words are Chopinesque, then this work strays into the contrasting worlds of Robert Schumann. Which is not to suggest that Mendelssohn wasn’t anything other than his own man (and boy indeed): only he could have written the Rondo capriccioso, which opens so invitingly and then sparkles with gossamer lightness.
A sterner countenance is unfolded in the E minor Prelude and Fugue – well, it would be, it’s a hallowed design and Mendelssohn was devoted to the music of J. S. Bach. If Perianes floats like a butterfly in the Rondo, then he unleashes powerful waves in the Prelude and appreciates the skilled earnestness of the Fugue, which grows to a demonstrative blaze, something Perianes develops magnificently, not least when introducing the rock-like chorale tune. The disc concludes with Variations sérieuses, played by Perianes with a keen music-serving virtuosity and perception, as swift and as solemn as is required to bring to life one of Mendelssohn’s finest piano works.
Superbly recorded – but when were the sessions (?), the annotation refuses to yield such information – Perianes here makes a wholly positive impression on behalf of himself as a devoted musician and reveals the fullest fraternity with Mendelssohn’s muse.