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Felix Mendelssohn, whose centenary we celebrate this year, was the ultimate cosmopolitan composer, but formed a special relationship with Britain, which he visited ten times.
A number of his works were written in response to English commissions, including Elijah, and the Six Sonatas for Organ which have become established repertoire for organists and are some of Mendelssohn’s last compositions.
Mendelssohn was the first composer of international renown after J.S. Bach to return to the organ, and performed publicly on English organs during all his visits, audiences coming in droves to hear him. The sound of the English organ of his day had some distinctive qualities, which have been captured on this recording by William Whitehead, who uses the 1818 Lincoln Organ now situated in the Ballroom at Buckingham Palace.
It is not known whether Mendelssohn played this particular instrument but we know that he was a warmly welcomed guest of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert at the Palace on numerous occasions. Recently restored, the organ gives an English perspective on this ebullient music which crosses international boundaries of style.
It is the first time an authentic instrument of this period has been used to record Mendelssohn’s Six Organ Sonatas.
Felix Mendelssohn: Organ Sonata in F major, Op. 65, No. 1
I. Allegro moderato e serioso
III. Andante recitando
IV. Allegro assai vivace
Felix Mendelssohn: Organ Sonata in C minor, Op. 65, No. 2
III. Allegro maestoso e vivace
IV. Fuga: Allegro moderato
Felix Mendelssohn: Organ Sonata in A major, Op. 65, No. 3
I. Con moto maestoso
II. Andante tranquillo
Felix Mendelssohn: Organ Sonata in B flat major, Op. 65, No. 4
I. Allegro con brio
II. Andante religioso
IV. Allegro maestoso e vivace
Felix Mendelssohn: Organ Sonata in D major, Op. 65, No. 5
II. Andante con moto - Tempo di valse
III. Allegro maestoso
Felix Mendelssohn: Organ Sonata in D minor, Op. 65, No. 6
I. Chorale: Andante sostenuto - Allegro molto
II. Fuga: Sostenuto e legato
III. Finale: Andante
“Whitehead need not apologise for the apparent perversity of trying to recreate the frustrating performing conditions Mendelssohn would have found on his British tours… his immaculately articulated playing and musical imagination draws sounds, and an interpretation, which we may confidently imagine to be as authentic as it comes.”
Awards Issue 2009
“…is noble playing of the highest order.”
29th July 2009
“Recorded in the ballroom of Buckingham Palace, where Mendelssohn himself enthralled Queen Victoria and Prince Albert on several occasions, these six organ sonatas combine piety, grandeur, charming melody and festive display. William Whitehead’s consummate performances on the palace’s restored early 19th-century Henry Lincoln instrument illuminate variety of sonority as much as the manner in which Mendelssohn, while acknowledging the example of Bach and respecting the Protestant tradition, forged music of sumptuous, romantic lustre.”
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