Romances Without Words: From Mendelssohn to Barbara

Romance without words. Before being a collection of poems by Paul Verlaine and three pieces for piano by an adolescent Gabriel Fauré, this paradoxical title is first and foremost the pianistic testament of Felix Mendelssohn: Forty-eight pieces for pianos, divided into eight collections, eight bouquets he composed throughout his life. And as their name suggests, these Romances without words invite us to listen to pieces where the voice is absent. The lyricism remains, of course, but it is embodied by a solitary piano that deploys melodious musical phrases, an inner voice where everyone imagines the poem of their choice.

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Composed between 1829 and 1845, the Romances without words are pieces of their time, emblems of the German romantic movement. But their sometimes very simple harmony and their melodious, cantabile themes also give them a romantic side in a more modern and universal sense. Listening for example to the very first Romance Without Words titled “Sweet Memories”, I can’t help but imagine Barbara suddenly appearing and singing her own memories.

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Barbara’s refined melodies, haunting arpeggios swaying over very classical harmonies share a family resemblance with Mendelssohn’s Wordless Romances. More than a simple sequence of chords, the same tonality, it is above all the character that unites certain songs of Barbara and the gallant style of Mendelssohn.




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When I listen to this Mal de Vivre, a moving confession by Barbara, I can’t help but think of the creative spleen of the Romantic composers of the 19th century, of that of Mendelssohn whom he lets burst into the Romances op.67 n°2 titled “Lost Illusions”.




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Sometimes it would take very little, changing the rhythm and the instruments for a Romance without words like the Song of Spring to change into a crooner’s song or into a jazz ballad, romantic and timeless, which Benny Goodman understood well. .

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Romances Without Words: From Mendelssohn to Barbara