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List: Music@Menlo: 2019
Felix Mendelssohn

Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847)

Nationality: German
Born: February 3, 1809, Hamburg Died: November 4, 1847, Leipzig (age 38)

String Quintet No. 2 in B-flat major, Op. 87

(for 2 violins, 2 violas and cello)
10:09 I. Allegro vivace
4:28 II. Andante scherzando
9:19 III. Adagio e lento
6:03 IV. Allegro molto vivace
Duration: 30 minutes (approximately)
Composed: 1845, July 8, Soden (age 35-36)
Published: 1851, Leipzig: Breitkopf und Härtel
5 recordings, 20 videos
autoopen autoplay
10:35
Fine Arts Quartet
I. Allegro vivace
4:32
Fine Arts Quartet
II. Andante scherzando
10:40
Fine Arts Quartet
III. Adagio e lento
6:16
Fine Arts Quartet
IV. Allegro molto vivace
9:55
Vienna String Sextet
I. Allegro vivace
4:33
Vienna String Sextet
II. Andante scherzando
8:44
Vienna String Sextet
III. Adagio e lento
6:02
Vienna String Sextet
IV. Allegro molto vivace
9:18
Streichquintett der Bamberger Symphoniker
I. Allegro vivace
4:37
Streichquintett der Bamberger Symphoniker
II. Andante scherzando
8:48
Streichquintett der Bamberger Symphoniker
III. Adagio e lento
6:16
Streichquintett der Bamberger Symphoniker
IV. Allegro molto vivace
10:22
Heutling Quartett, Graf
I. Allegro vivace
4:12
Heutling Quartett, Graf
II. Andante scherzando
8:40
Heutling Quartett, Graf
III. Adagio e lento
6:07
Heutling Quartett, Graf
IV. Allegro molto vivace
9:42
Henschel Quartet, Glassl
I. Allegro vivace
4:11
Henschel Quartet, Glassl
II. Andante scherzando
7:59
Henschel Quartet, Glassl
III. Adagio e lento
5:35
Henschel Quartet, Glassl
IV. Allegro molto vivace
From Kai Christiansen

Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847)

String Quintet No. 2 in B-flat major, Op. 87, 1845

Felix MendelssohnMendelssohn's second viola quintet dates from last years of his composing career. By this point he had written all of his chamber music save the final string quartet, Op. 80, and a few isolated quartet movements that were since bundled and published in s a composite set as Op. 81. Within two years, Mendelssohn would be dead and this final quintet would remain unpublished due to his feeling that the work was somehow not finished. Mendelssohn wrote his first quintet some twenty years earlier when he was seventeen. And although the precocious Mendelssohn was already a master by the standards of lesser mortals, it is the second quintet that lasts in the repertoire as the mature masterwork, the next historical landmark for the viola quintet after Mozart. (Beethoven wrote a viola quintet in 1801 called "The Storm" but it is not included in the traditional canon).

The quintet begins with a huge Allegro vivace sonata, the longest movement of the four. The musical means are ostensibly simple comprising two contrasting themes, one, an exuberant rising arpeggio with a dotted rhythm, the other, a softer falling line with equal note values. But from these elements, Mendelssohn crafts a drama of great passion, driven by characteristic tremolos, a nearly concertante first violin part and the swelling textures of string symphony. The music is seamless and rhapsodic. Indeed, there is not a single repeat symbol in the entire work: it is continuously thorough composed.

The tempo of the second movement Andante scherzando is, by Mendelssohn standards, quite moderate compared to his typical "elfish" scherzi. But still there is that telltale light and tensile agility with agile bowing and pizzicato, as if the players were on tiptoes whispering a magic spell from an invisible world. This effect is enhanced by a bit of fugal imitation among the parts, a repetitive, ritualistic incantation. Furthermore, as he frequently does, Mendelssohn spins out his scherzo without strong seams or vividly contrasting trio. The music forms a continuous web until a final disruptive cadence sends the spirits flying, a final sprinkle of fairy dust in their wake.

The Adagio is unquestionably the center of gravity and the movement most admired by commentators on this quintet. Full of pathos and drama, it begins with the telltale signs of a funeral march, a mournful musical elegy. An insistent drumming permutes into a variety of pulsations underlying much of the music for a sense of both mounting drama and dour inevitability. Never has Mendelssohn sounded so much like Schubert. Occasional anguished cries rival those in Mozart's g minor quintet. Twice Mendelssohn softens the mood with his signature lyricism in a pastorale vein until a lone violin rising above turgid tremolos sends a final entreaty skyward, a new ray of hope banishing the sorrow for good.

Mendelssohn finishes his last quintet with a rondo-sonata hybrid that takes full advantage of the ensemble's larger forces, again encroaching on the textures of his string symphonies. The main rondo refrain surges forward trailing shimmering, echoing reverberations, riding swift figurations and bounding in muscular unisons that eventually divide into disciplined fugal imitations reflecting Mendelssohn's love of Bach. A contrasting lyrical song fragment surfaces occasionally to check the momentum, sweeten the ride and to preface the last triumphant flourish of unshakable resolution.

© Kai Christiansen Used by permission. All rights reserved.


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