Mendelssohn's Symphonies Nos 1 & 3 conducted by Andrew Manze

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Album title:
Mendelssohn
Composer(s):
Felix Mendelssohn
Works:
Symphonies Nos 1 & 3 (Scottish)
Performer:
NDR Radiophilharmonie/Andrew Manze
Label:
PentaTone
Catalogue Number:
PTC 5186595 (hybrid CD/SACD)
Performance:
starstarstarstarnostar
Recording:
starstarstarnostarnostar
4
Reviewer:
BBC Music Magazine
Mendelssohn's Symphonies Nos 1 & 3 conducted by Andrew Manze

Clean playing, excellent speeds, a manageable reverberation time (around four seconds), intelligent introduction of dynamics where they are plainly lacking and sensitive phrasing with no mannered rubato: in all these respects, a thoroughly enjoyable performance. But the recording is less happy. Especially in the First Symphony, the timpani emits a booming sound that becomes really quite intrusive over time, and more especially when playing notes just above those of the bass line, producing a rather thick texture.

In both works there are several passages, too, where important ideas on violins are obscured by wind chords, interrupting that natural discourse which is so much a part of Mendelssohn’s genius, even in the First Symphony, written when he was only 15. As a final, finnicky detail, I would mention the first clarinet’s tendency not to tongue repeated notes clearly enough at the ends of phrases – a pity, because the tone is gorgeous, and the jaunty tune in the second movement of the Scottish Symphony bounces along with infectious gusto. I can’t say, though, that, for me, the recording says anything new about either work. Am I wrong to look for this? Do Mendelssohn’s symphonies leave less room than most for ‘interpretation’, bar countering his occasional reluctance to include dynamics? I only ask. More forcefully, I insist that translators of liner notes, while fluent in the source language, should always be native speakers of the target language: phrases such as ‘sophisticated tone technique’ don’t help anybody.

Roger Nichols

Andrew Davis conducts the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra in a performance of Charles Ives' Symphonies Nos 3 & 4
Andrew Davis conducts the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra in a performance of Charles Ives' Symphonies Nos 3 & 4
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