Complete music for cello and piano (Sellheim)
Opp. 17, 45, 58, 109; Friedrich-Jürgen Sellheim, Eckart Sellheim; CBS
As Bernard Shaw pointed out, Mendelssohn invented his own personal musical language. Like Esperanto it had some success but few successors: But even without roots it could be freely propagated, via the Leipzig Conservatory; whence it was transplanted by Sullivan for further continuous flowering. So there's only a momentary surprise in hearing the cello in op.58/II burst into the Usher's song from Trial by Jury; that's just the musical equivalent of Mendelian inheritance, in some very hardy perennial strains. Nevertheless, these and the other instrumental duos have never made a really strong appeal. They sound so like re-heated keyboard music; as if the cello had been introduced to the piano, as Abishag was to King David, in order to add warmth and interest to what might otherwise have remained rather cold and lifeless.
The cellist here achieves that end with resounding success; and so, even more remarkably, does the pianist. Sometimes their manifestly committed impetus and élan take them a little too far whether apart (e.g. in op.58/III/12 etc the crescendo is not unanimous) or together (the final rallentando in op.109 is very marked in performance though not marked at all in the Gesamtausgabe score). But far more significant is their joint demonstration that verve and articulacy can work wonders for Mendelssohn's musical language; which is made to sing and speak most divertingly and sometimes very expressively.
The Musical Times, Mar.1977 (p. 217) © the estate of eric sams