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CD Feature/ Lauma Skride: "Fanny Mendelssohn-Hensel - The Year"

img  Tobias

The story of Fanny Mendelssohn-Hensel is one to make you sad and pensive: What great music could the world have been given if she had been born at a time, when women were able to release their work freely and when their colleagues did not look down on them? If she had been free to plan her own life, instead of having to give in to her father (who insisted she become a whife and mother instead of a composer) and even her brother (who fostered her talent but was adamanent about not wanting to have her scores published under her own name)? An icon of defiance in an age of adaption, most Mendelssohn-Hensel CDs are meant as rectifications and glorifications and lack an objective distance from the person behind the notes. This one doesn’t and that’s what makes it so interesting.

The story of Lauma Skride is one to make you believe that the worls of Classical music may actually be in one of its most exciting phases and not in an immanent crisis. Like Fanny, she was born into a highly musical family with both of her sisters proving to be talented instrumentalists and Baiba Skride, whom she describes as “no rival, but my best friend”, already conquering her new home Germany (to where she moved from her native Latvia) with her extraordinary violin sound, charm and restless touring activity. While the duo recording of the Skrides is only hours from being released as I write this, the honours first go to Lauma to show how far she has progressed as a solo pianist. And a remarkable interpretation it has turned out to be, possibly exactly because it does not shock or confuse. Don’t forget: Lauma is a Classical artists in the truest sense of the word, her heart beats for the 18th and 19th century, for Schubert, Ravel, Rachmaninov and Mozart and the most contemporary she will go in her repertoire at the moment will be performing Gershwin’s F major concerto. Consequently, her rendition of “The Year” is deliberate, thoughtful, measured and with the story of the work’s genesis in mind, which is noteworthy and intimate, but which she makes her own in a subtle way. This cycle, after all, written after Mendelssohn’s return from a one-year stint in Italy, which offered her a joyous time of inspiration and open admiration for her creativity by some of her mediteranean artistic friends, is not a programmatic effort like Vivaldi’s “Seasons” or Holst’s “The Planets”. Instead, it offers a glimpse at Fanny’s diary, revealing her inmost thoughts and feelings amidst a world full of fasinating details and an infinite sensory richness. Some of the tracks refer more or less clearly to concrete events, while others remain slightly more enigmatic, but on each occasion they are to be understood as “mood pieces”. Judged by this gauge, the composer was a nostalgic and melancholic character, who even in the warmest of months prefered to revel in sweet memories. Maybe the most sincerely “happy” piece is “December” and that is saying quite a bit. The romantic nature of these twelve sketches and a short epilogue invites all kinds of wallowing, but Skride has different thoughts: Her approach is willingly introvert, as if suspecting that it is not full-blown sadness Fanny wanted to express but rather a delicate form of depression. Above all, her playing depicts Mendelssohn-Hensel as someone who might have enjoyed daydreaming, but who was always well aware of he dreams and clear in her mind.

All in all, there is a lot to discover, especially since all of the compositions work both on their own as well as integrated into the greater whole and because the mix between readily accessible pieces and more withdrawn ones works wondrously well. The only thing one could argue about is whether or not just a little more mystery might have worked in this album’s advantage: There are some passages which seem to ask for a little blurring, but Lauma remains lucid and on top of things throughout. That however, is a different story and need not be told here. As a debut, this is a most welcome presentation of a pianist with a mind of her own.

By Tobias Fischer

Homepage: Lauma Skride
Homepage: Sony Classical

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