Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847) was born in Hamburg, Germany, into a distinguished and wealthy family that valued education and the arts. Along with instruction in piano, Mendelssohn also received lessons in violin, foreign language (he spoke four languages) and painting (he showed considerable talent in pastel drawing).
Mendelssohn's talent was prodigious. At the age of sixteen he wrote his remarkable String Octet Op. 20, and at seventeen composed his first masterpiece, the overture for the incidental music to Shakespeare's "A Midsummer Night's Dream," Op. 21.
One of Mendelssohn's greatest contributions was his promotion of the music of J. S. Bach. As a conductor and pianist, Mendelssohn introduced much of the neglected and almost forgotten music of Bach to the audiences of his day. At the age of 20, Mendelssohn conducted a series of concerts in Berlin devoted entirely to the music of Bach. In 1833 he conducted a series of concerts in Düsseldorf devoted to the oratorios of Handel. Included in these concerts was Handel's "Messiah." As a result, Mendelssohn contributed to the popularity of the "Messiah" by presenting it to public as he had done with the music of Bach.
It was in England that the "Wedding March" from Mendelssohn's music to "A Midsummer Night's Dream" began to be used to accompany the bridal procession. It was first played for a wedding at St. Peter's Church in Triverton in June of 1847. However, it became particularly fashionable when it was played at the wedding of the Princess Royal in 1857.
Mendelssohn composed forty-eight piano pieces under the title "Songs Without Words." They were published in eight sets of six pieces each over a period of two decades and became very popular during Mendelssohn's lifetime. Beauty and imagination pervade the "Songs Without Words," and they demonstrate the fastidious attention to detail characteristic of Mendelssohn, as well as his superb talent for creating unity, balance, and form. "The Scherzo in E Minor" is the second of three pieces from "Three Fantasies or Caprices," Op. 16. It was composed in the summer of 1829 while Mendelssohn was vacationing in North Wales. The "Fantasies" were inspired by the light-hearted mood of his summer days.
A music book correlated to the selections on this recording is available from your favorite print music dealer. Please ask for "Mendelssohn: Selected Songs Without Words/Scherzo in E Minor" (GP398), Compiled and Edited by Keith Snell, Neil A. Kjos Music Company, Publisher.
Keith Snell, Producer
Pianist Diane Hidy made her Carnegie Hall debut in 1991 after completing her studies with John Perry and Leon Fleisher. In 1987 Diane was the first woman to become a Fellow of the American Pianists Association and in 1982 was the winner of the MTNA Collegiate Artist Competition. She has performed with the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra s First Prize winner of the Joanna Hodges International Piano Competition. Diane attended the Juilliard School of Music, and holds music degrees from the University of Southern California and the Peabody Conservatory of Music. She spent her high school years in Seattle, Washington, where she was a student of Michiko Miyamoto.
Diane and her husband, J. Tony Smith, live in San Francisco, CA, where she teaches young beginners through advanced high school students and adults.