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Songs Without Words
  • Artist: Erik Mann
  • UPC: 884501555609
  • Item #: 157384X
  • Genre: Classical Artists
  • Release Date: 7/26/2011
  • This product is a special order
  • Rank: 1000000000
Price: $22.18
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Songs Without Words on CD

J.K. Mertz was born in Pressburg, part of the Habsburg Empire, which today is Bratislava, Slovakia, on the border of Hungary and Austria. Named Caspar Joseph Mertz, professionally he used J.K. Mertz; according to his widow the initials stood for Joseph (or Johann) Kaspar. He established a reputation as a virtuoso of the 8-string and later the 10-string guitar, though most of his published music was written for the 6-string instrument. Mertz moved to Vienna in 1840, where he would live for the rest of his life. He met his wife, the pianist Josephine Plantin, while on tour in 1842. They concertized as a duo, co-composing several works. When Mertz became ill in 1846, Josephine's misunderstanding of the treatment prolonged his recovery time to one and a half years. During this time he published, and may have composed, much of the Bardenklänge collection. A composer's competition sponsored by Nikolai Makarov in 1856 declared Mertz as the winner for his work Concertino, an award sadly delivered posthumously. Mertz' widow would survive him by almost 50 years, dying in 1903. This disc contains excerpts from Bardenklänge (Bard's Sounds), Op 13. The music is fully of it's time, consisting of character pieces much like those written for piano by Mertz' contemporaries Mendelssohn and Schumann. More than likely Mertz had many opportunities to hear and study the works of his more famous peers as Josephine was likely well-versed in their music. Some of the titles in this collection display the influence of Mendelssohn, whose Lieder ohne Worte (Songs without Words) for solo piano inspired Mertz to use the same title for one of his pieces, while individual works within Mendelssohn's collection- the Venezianisches Gondellieder and Kinderstück- may have inspired Mertz' Gondoliera and Kindermärchen. Moreover, Mendelssohn's orchestral overture die Hebriden was alternatively entitled die Fingalshöhle. Mertz' ode to the Scottish cave uses the same title but different means of depiction: rapid arpeggios on the guitar portray tempestuous waves lashing the shore. The ability to make an instrument "sing" is an ideal that found it's peak in the romantic era. The influence of song on instrumental music that was expressed by Mendelssohn in the title of his collection Songs Without Words was later eluded to by Mertz with Bard's Sounds. Titles of individual works within the collection often reference the voice as well: in addition to the aforementioned Song Without Words are Gondoliera (recalling the singing Venetian gondolier), Prayer, Love Song, Evening Song, and Child's Tale. Romanze, or romance, was a term applied to a sung ballad, and later used for instrumental pieces with a simple lyrical character. Other titles, such as Longing and To the Distant One seem to imply songs as well. In fact, the latter was also the title of a poem by Goethe used as the text for a song by Schubert. Some of these pieces may have been inspired by James MacPherson's supposed translations of ancient Scottish poetry into English, published in the late eighteenth century, and quickly translated into German. Although it was discovered that he actually wrote much of the material himself, his publications influenced many romantic-era artists, who were deeply moved by the epic poetry of warriors and bards, as well as themes of nature, battle, love, and death. The title Bard's Sounds may show this influence, though the most direct reference to MacPherson's works is To Malvina, which features harp-like arpeggios. According to the poetry, Malvina (whose name means 'lovely brow'), was a harpist and the wife of Oscar. After Oscar died in battle she befriended her elderly father-in-law Ossian. In the following passage, Ossian recognizes Malvina's grief, and proceeds to relate a story of his youth to distract her from her pain. 'When thou didst return from the chace in the day of the sun, thou hast heard the music of the bards, and thy song is lovely! It is lovely, O Malvina! But it melts the soul. There is a joy in grief when peace dwells in the breast of the soul. But sorrow wastes the mournful...'