"Mendelssohn: Complete Works for piano four hands and for two pianos" (Decca)

Is there another single-disc recording of all five of the complete original pieces composed by Mendelssohn for piano duet and two pianos? If so, I doubt if it’s as good as this with Roberto Prosseda, tireless champion of the composer, joined here by his wife Alessandra Ammara.

If in the Sonata in D major and the single sonata movement (aka Klavierstück) in G minor – both for two pianos – we do not hear the distinctive voice of the composer, then we should surely gasp in admiration that such music was composed by an 11-year-old. The sonata is clearly modelled on Mozart’s great K448 Sonata (in the same key) just as the Fantaisie in D minor for piano four hands (composed 1824 but published only in 2009) shares some characteristics (though not as obvious) with the Fantasy in D minor, K397; it has four linked sections lasting 13'19", making it, as Prosseda rightly asserts in the booklet, ‘one of the most interesting rediscoveries of Mendelssohn’s works that have been made in recent years’. In the next two pieces, the Duetto and Andante con variazioni (adapted from the Variations, Op 83, for solo piano) from 1840 and 1844 respectively, we have the echt Mendelssohn, glorious melodies and brilliant writing despatched con amore e con spirito by Ammara and Prosseda.

The disc ends with the composer’s own and rarely heard piano-duet arrangement of the incidental music for A Midsummer Night’s Dream, the six purely instrumental movements familiar from the orchestral suite. Good programming by the duo: the Overture (originally a piano duet written when he was just 17) reminds us again of Mendelssohn the youthful genius, while the rest of the suite, composed stylistically seamlessly 16 years later, is contemporaneous with the Andante con variazioni. Altogether a significant and rewarding addition to the Mendelssohn discography.

Jeremy Nicholas, Gramophone, 3/2016