Title: Song without Words "Sweet Remembrance"
Composer: Felix Mendelssohn
Edited By: Jeffrey Solow
Instrumentation: Solo with Piano
Mendelssohn composed 48 of what he called Songs without Words for solo piano. (The Song without Words, op.109, dedicated to the 18-year-old French cellist Elise Cristiani (1827-1853), was originally written for cello and piano and is the only one that he composed for an instrument other than solo piano.) Intended as drawing-room pieces, they were a huge success starting with the publication in 1832 of the first set, Opus 19, composed 1829-30. The title Song without Words seems to have been Mendelssohn's own invention. His talented pianist/composer sister Fanny wrote in an 1828 letter, "My birthday was celebrated very nicely ... Felix has given me a 'song without words' for my album (he has lately written several beautiful ones)." Most of the 48 ‘Songs’ were individually unnamed by Mendelssohn; the Hungarian-born French pianist Stephen Heller (1813-88) bestowed upon each of the others the name it now carries. Mendelssohn resisted attempts to interpret the Songs too literally: “What the music I love expresses to me, is not thought too indefinite to put into words, but on the contrary, too definite.” While they are all idiomatically pianistic, some have melodic lines that lend themselves gracefully to the sound of a stringed instrument, particularly Sweet Remembrance Op. 19, No. 1, with its sustained tune floating above a flowing, arpeggiated accompaniment. Several famous players have tried their hand at setting the Songs without Words for both cello and violin, among them violinist/violist Fredreich Hermann, cellist Alfredo Piatti, who transcribed all eight volumes for cello, and Jascha Heifetz, whose performance of “Sweet Remembrance” was filmed and can be seen on YouTube by clicking here.
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.