Karr-Yang Duo: Felix Mendelssohn: Sonatas from Childhood, Adolescence, and Adulthood

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Fresh interpretation and technical brilliance imbue “Mendelssohn: Sonatas from Childhood, Adolescence, and Adulthood,” the first period instrument recording of this repertoire. This debut recording by the New York City based Karr-Yang Duo features three relatively unknown Mendelssohn Piano and Violin Sonatas, including the duo's own version  of the unfinished 1838 F major sonata, and the stunning albeit incomplete Fragment in D.


# Audio Title/Composer(s) Performer(s) Time
Total Time 67:36
01Sonata Fragment in D (1825): Adagio–Allegro molto
Sonata Fragment in D (1825): Adagio–Allegro molto

Sonata No. 1 in F Major (1820)

02I. Allegro
I. Allegro
03II. Andante
II. Andante
04III. Presto
III. Presto

Sonata No. 2 in F Minor (1823)

05I. Adagio - Allegro moderato
I. Adagio - Allegro moderato
06II. Poco Adagio
II. Poco Adagio
07III. Allegro agitato
III. Allegro agitato

Sonata No. 3 in F Major (1838)

08I. Allegro vivace
I. Allegro vivace
09II. Adagio
II. Adagio
10III. Assai vivace
III. Assai vivace

Felix Mendelssohn’s stunning E minor violin concerto, written towards the end of his life, is familiar fare to all frequent concert-goers. This masterpiece, along with his well-known quartets and symphonies, reflects a lifelong engagement with the violin and with several personally important and widely influential violinists. Perhaps the closest and most fruitful of these relationships was with his dear friend and close collaborator Ferdinand David, who was born a year later than Felix in the same house, and was one of the few loved ones surrounding him when he passed away at a tragically early age. They even shared similar cultural backgrounds: both were born Jewish and converted to Christianity.

Despite such close ties to the violin and its exponents, Mendelssohn’s sonatas have mostly fallen out of favor, likely because they present singular challenges for performers. Far from rendering these sonatas without appeal for performance and study, however, we feel these challenges enhance their value as musical works while contributing to an understanding of Mendelssohn as composer and artist.

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The first, composed when Felix was a mere 11 years old, appears in an early notebook intermingled with counterpoint, figured bass, and chorale exercises. These elements―along with study of the works of Bach, Mozart, and Haydn―comprised a substantial portion of the rigorous classical training he received from his tutor Carl Friedrich Zelter. Felix’s diligence and, by some standards, the conservatism of his style is reflected in the Mozartean sparseness and clever intermingling of the voices in the first movement; a somber theme and variations in the second; and the Haydn-esque scampering in the third, reminiscent of works such as the “Lark” quartet. The sonata also reveals the seeds of an inspired composer, and is a delightful little gem in its own right.

For the complete program notes, please purchase the album.

Producer: Jesse Lewis
Engineers: Tom Caulfield and Jesse Lewis
Piano Technician: Ed Swenson
Editing Assistant: Shauna Barravecchio
Mastering Engineer: Kyle Pyke
Recorded at Drew University, Madison, NJ, June 2015
Recorded in DSD256 (11.2MHz) with Schoeps and DPA microphones
Conrad Graf concert piano circa 1827, opus 1389, courtesy of Ed Swenson
Design & Typography: Marc Wolf (marcjwolf.com)
Cover: Elbschiff im Frühnebel by Caspar David Friedrich
Booklet Cover: Pen and Ink drawing by Felix Mendelssohn. Landscape of the cliffs at Amalfi. Signature on mounting paper. 15x21cm., ink. Used by permission from the Moldenhauer Archives at the Library of Congress.
Fragment in D (1825), Autograph score: Staatsbibliothek Zu Berlin - Preußischer Kulturbesitz, Mendelssohn Archive.
Karr-Yang Duo, inside: Tatiana Daubek Photography
Special Thanks: Ellis Hilton, Robert Mealy, Max Zeugner

Karr-Yang Duo

A native of Boston, Massachusetts, violinist Abigail Karr received Bachelor and Master of Music degrees at Rice University’s Shepherd School of Music, studying violin with the late Sergiu Luca. She appears with many ensembles on modern and historical violin, including the Handel & Haydn Society of Boston (as occasional principal player and soloist) and the Trinity Baroque Orchestra of Manhattan. An active chamber musician, noted for the “focused direction” she brings to performances, she is the founder and director of Gretchen’s Muse, a chamber ensemble dedicated to bringing the music of the 18th century to life through exciting, historically-informed performances; the group was recently praised for its “near-telepathic synchronicity” and the “palpable collective chemistry between such individually accomplished bow-wielders.” Abigail holds a degree in historical performance from The Juilliard School, and currently lives in New York.

Noted for “astonishing skill and vividness” and “absolute mastery,” Yi-heng Yang is a dynamic and versatile collaborator and soloist on modern and historical keyboards. She has appeared in recital at The Boston Early Music Festival, The Frederick Collection, The Geelvinck Museum, La Grua Series, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Serenata of Santa Fe, Albuquerque Chatter, The Apple Hill Center for Chamber Music and The Friends of Mozart. Ms. Yang holds a doctorate in piano performance from The Juilliard School, where she is on the faculty of the Evening Division. She also studied the fortepiano with Stanley Hoogland at the Amsterdam Conservatory, where she graduated summa cum laude.