Title: Variations Concertantes
Composer: Felix Mendelssohn
Edited By: Jeffrey Solow
Pages: 23 including the violoncello and piano parts
In 1829, during the period when the 20-year-old Mendelssohn was preparing to reintroduce Bach's Saint Matthew Passion to the world, he also found the time to compose the Variations Concertantes for performance in his family's Sunday musicales with his 16-year-old cellist brother Paul. Paul's limited ability in comparison with his extraordinarily talented brother may explain their virtuosic imbalance, which is heavily weighted toward the piano, and is the reason the variations receive few performances today.
In preparing a performance edition that would rectify the inequality between the cello and piano parts, my main guide was Emanuel Feuermann's version of Chopin's Introduction and Polonaise Brilliante (incidentally, composed only two years before Mendelssohn’s Variations). Feuermann took this seldom-performed work that Chopin described as “a polonaise for piano with cello accompaniment” and through borrowing of notes from the piano part, octave transpositions, and other judicious rewriting, created an idiomatic virtuosic cello piece that figures frequently on cello recitals.
Using exactly these techniques I made a version of the Variations that is satisfying for both listener and performer and without reference to the score I believe one cannot pick out the changes. My ultimate criterion has been that I would not be embarrassed to suggest these ideas to Mendelssohn himself, were he alive.
Click here to preview a recording of this piece as found on Jeffrey Solow's recording of Mendelssohn's complete music for cello and piano for Centaur Records. To purchase the CD from the Centaur Records website, click here.