Felix Mendelssohn

Albumblatt in E minor

Op. 117 • “Song without Words”

About this work

Felix Mendelssohn's famous Songs without Words were for the most part issued as groups of three, four, or more, in a single volume. A few, however, appeared as individual pieces. One such composition is the Albumblatt in E minor for piano, Op. 117, which, unlike most of the Songs without Words (which bear that title as a proper given name), bears the words "Song without Words" only as a subtitle -- a publisher's afterthought, even, an idea made all the more substantial when we realize that the piece was not published until 1872, 25 years after Mendelssohn's death.

The Albumblatt in E minor was probably composed in the mid- to late 1830s. Mendelssohn was at heart a Classicist, a man whose allegiance to the Romantic trends of his own day was somewhat ambivalent; but in such a piece as Op. 117 it is tempting to forget, for a while at least, that Mendelssohn had ever even heard of Baroque or Classical music -- for this Albumblatt soars with early-Romantic melodic grace, its cloud-puff left-hand eighth notes swaying, its long-spun right-hand tune rising and descending. And when the move is made from the somewhat austere E minor to warm, rich E major for the B section of this straightforward ABA-form piece, the pianist should be forgiven if, for a moment, he or she indulges in a bit of bourgeois sentimentality, which the composer usually abhorred, but not always, particularly not in this piece.