Sir John Eliot Gardiner and the London Symphony Orchestra join forces once again in the latest instalment of their exploration of Mendelssohn’s symphonies. Mendelssohn’s Symphony No 5, commonly known as the ‘Reformation’ Symphony, was written in 1830 to commemorate the 300th anniversary of the Augsberg confession – a seminal event in the Protestant Reformation. Allusions to the symphony’s title and inspiration can be heard throughout the music itself; the Dresden Amen is cited by the strings in the first movement whilst the finale is based on Martin Luther’s well-known chorale Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott (‘A Mighty Fortress is Our God’). Coupled with this are two of Mendelssohn’s overtures, Calm Sea and Prosperous Voyage and Ruy Blas, both of which were inspired by literary works. Calm Sea and Prosperous Voyage, based on two short poems by Goethe, depicts the journey of sailors at sea with a still adagio opening ultimately giving way to a triumphant homecoming. Completing the album, the overture Ruy Blas was commissioned by the Leipzig Theatre as an overture to Victor Hugo’s tragic drama of the same name.
George Szell's Philips Concertgebouw legacy includes some distinguished recordings, with the scintillating Midsummer Night's Dream suite taking pride of place. Few if any rivals can match the ''Scherzo'' (not even Szell's later Cleveland recording is as buoyant or precise), while the Overture is extraordinarily well drilled and the ''Nocturne'', although cool, has a genuine sense of repose. The Schubert Rosamunde excerpts display all the drive and textural clarity that Szell habitually brought to, say, the Great C major Symphony…
In 1832 Felix Mendelssohn (1809-47) wrote to his sister Fanny that is what about time he wrote some ‘good trios’. He had already started but left unfinished a trio for piano, violin and viola, and started the D minor trio shortly after, completing it in 1839. Mendelssohn’s friend the composer-pianist Ferdinand Hiller advised him after the completion to make several revisions to make the work sound as up to date as possible – Hiller, was a pupil of Hummel was a keen supporter of Berlioz and Liszt. The result is a work of perfect proportions, with a brilliant piano part, skilful counterpoint and a wonderful blend of classical poise and romantic passion. Schumann reviewing the Leipzig premiere on 1840 commented that the trio was a masterpiece that would ‘bring joy to our children and grandchildren’. The 2nd trio is dedicated to the great German violinist and composer Louis Spohr.
'The masterpiece of our time in the trio genre' is how Robert Schumann described Mendelssohn's Piano Trio in D minor when he reviewed the work upon its publication in 1840. Comparing it to the trios by Beethoven and Schubert, Schumann continued: 'a very beautiful composition, which in years to come will continue to delight our grandchildren and great-grandchildren.' And so it has the D minor trio remains one of the most popular of Mendelssohn's chamber works, uniting the composer's gift for melody with his feeling for textures and formal mastery. A few years later he penned the Piano Trio No. 2 in C minor between February and April 1845. An intensely emotional first movement is followed by a blissful Andante espressivo and a shimmering, truly Mendelsohnian Scherzo. The Finale returns to the passionate mood of the opening, but in the course of the movement hymn-like allusions appear and lend an air of sacred celebration to the movement. These two highpoints in the Romantic repertoire for piano trio are here performed by the young Sitkovetsky Trio.
Following his critically acclaimed recording of Mendelssohn’s Symphony No.2, Spanish conductor Pablo Heras-Casado returns with Symphonies Nos.3 and 4, this time leading the Freiburger Barockorchester. Both works have origins in the composer’s 1829- 1831 tour of Europe. Symphony No.3, sometimes called the “Scottish” symphony, was inspired by a visit to the ruined Holyrood Chapel in Edinburgh in 1829. It was not completed until 1842, making it, chronologically, the last of his five symphonies. Symphony No.4, called the “Italian” symphony, was born of the color and atmosphere of Italy, and was completed in Berlin in 1833.
The catalog doesn't need a new version of Mendelssohn's Midsummer Night's Dream, but this one is sung and spoken in German (hence the use of Sommernachtstraum on the cover), which is rare. It's reminder that Mendelssohn was setting a German translation of Shakespeare. Harnoncourt's performance is very fine. His speakers and singers are first-rate, and he evokes both the dreamy relaxation of the play and its mercurial swiftness. Tempos are on the fast side, phrasing is crips without being terse, and the execution by the Chamber Orchestra of Europe could be mistaken for the Concertgebouw.
"Helmuth Rilling realisiert die stilistische Spannweite der Chöre vom nazarenischen a cappella über impressionistische Koloristik, einem fast Brahms'schen Sentiment, bis zur dramatischen Wucht vollkommen."~FonoForum
I Solisti Veneti is one of the first rank of small Italian chamber orchestras with modern instruments. Founded in Padua in 1959 by Claudio Scimone, it has made a reputation especially with Italian Baroque music, recording many works by Antonio Vivaldi, Tomaso Albinoni, Francesco Geminiani, Benedetto Marcello and Giuseppe Tartini. Giuliano Carmignola and Piero Toso were two of the soloists in the ensemble. The group has made over 300 recordings, many on the Erato record label. A number of these were first-ever recordings of works of Vivaldi, Albinoni and Rossini.