Musical direction, Jérémie Rhorer
Felix Mendelssohn, Das Märchen von der schönen Melusine
Fanny Hensel-Mendelssohn, Hero und Leander
Fanny Hensel-Mendelssohn, Faust II
Felix Mendelssohn, Songe nuit d’été
This programme presents works by brother and sister Fanny Hensel and Felix Mendelssohn.
The first is Felix Mendelssohn’s Das Märchen von der schönen Melusine. Mendelssohn based the story on a libretto by Grillparzer, The Mermaid and the Knight, which had been used for an opera by Konradin Kreutzer, and he decided to create a new version of it for a concert in 1834 at the London Philharmonic. The story is based on a legend from central France and on the tales of Melusine, a princess who had the power to transform herself into a snake. A soft, undulating theme describes Melusine, while a proud, martial theme refers to the character of Lusignan, a knight. This overture has been described by musicologists as “one of the most poetic compositions of the musician and probably of the entire German Romantic repertoire”.
The heart of the concert is dedicated to Fanny Hensel with Faust II, based on the play by Von Goethe and Hero und Leander, guided by the homonymous poem by Friedrich Schiller. Hensel is an avant-gardist. She anticipated the textures, harmony and cyclical character of Richard Wagner’s music, without having had any connection with the composer. Coming from a conservative, bourgeois family, Hensel went against the grain and moved towards the new German school, with a certain harmonic boldness and non-traditional musical forms. She differs from her brother in her late romantic style and spontaneity. Hensel’s works are intelligent, coherent and the details of each musical parameter are carefully considered. Nevertheless, she always manages to surprise the listener with unexpected contrasts.
The programme ends with Felix Mendelssohn’s famous Midsummer Night’s Dream, inspired by William Shakespeare’s comedy of the same name. The work was composed in 1826 and 1827 when Mendelssohn was only 17 years old. According to François René Tranchefort, he recreated « the fairy tale through a series of musical impressions that escape the purely anecdotal », notably thanks to the woodwinds that bear witness to the enchanted atmosphere of Oberon’s kingdom or the rustling of the strings. This work shows « an innate gift for harmonic arrangements and orchestration that can bring out the most spontaneous musical ideas ».