Ed. E. Werner. Henle/Novello
This edition seeks to illustrate the stylistic “many-sidedness” of Mendelssohn's piano writing. The sides turn out to be as many as two: “romantic” (exemplified by nine Songs without Words) and “classical” (the Variations Sérieuses op.54 and the Six Preludes and Fugues op.35). The Sieben Characterstücke op.7 and the Sonata op.106 are all much earlier; they are presumably intended to show how easily a boy composer can fall between two schools. That lesson would be much clearer if the dates given were less obscure. For example “komponiert 1827-29” for op.7 conflicts with the evidence (e.g. in Bodleian and Leipzig Musikbibliothek catalogues) that composition had begun in 1824 and ended by 1827. It seems that only the Berlin autographs were used (why?), and then only “in cases of doubt”. In the absence of available autographs, the text of op.54 relies solely on the first edition, and not the Mechetti print but its London copy; for Urtext read Ewer-text.
The general reliance on first editions is justified on the ground that they incorporate Mendelssohn's final thoughts. The editor then skilfully demolishes his own argument, e.g. by reverting to the autograph in two passages, both of which appear to lead in the wrong direction. Thus he restores the autograph C sharp in place of the first edition's B in the left hand at bar 5 of the fugue in op.37 no.3. But on his own assumption he has corrected Mendelssohn's own correction, here as elsewhere. The brusque dismissal of that B as “clearly a printer's error” suggests that the editor's mind has been insufficiently exercised by the parallel bar (11). From other viewpoints too the apparatus looks decidedly shaky. So does the experiment itself. Most potential purchasers will already own op.54 and the Songs without Words. So this edition mainly offers them three rather flat works at a rather steep price; and the only compensation is a selection which traverses the gamut of Mendelssohn's piano style from A to B.
The Musical Times, Nov. 1974 (p. 949) © the estate of eric sams