Mendelssohn: Piano Sextet in D, Op. 110

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COMPOSERS: Mendelssohn
LABELS: Ideale Audience
WORKS: Piano Sextet in D, Op. 110; Piano Concerto No. 1 in G minor, Op. 25; Symphony No. 3 in A minor, Op. 56 (Scottish); plus bonus Stravinsky: Three Movements from Petrushka
PERFORMER: Yuja Wang (piano); Kirill Troussov (violin), David Aaron Carpenter Maxim Rysanov (viola), Sol Gabetta (cello), Leigh Mesh (double bass); Verbier Festival Orchestra/ Kurt Masur (Verbier Fesitval, 2009)
CATALOGUE NO: Ideale Audience 307 9248


The mixture here of seriousness, high spirits and virtuosity suits Mendelssohn well. On this showing, the absence from general programming of his Sextet Op. 110 has everything to do with its unusual instrumentation and nothing to do with its quality – any early 19th-century composer would  have been happy to write this work, but for a 15-year-old it’s almost as astonishing as the Octet of the following year. One forgives the keyboard triplet-mania in the first movement, but there is nothing to forgive in the Adagio where Mendelssohn’s lyricism shines.

In this work and in the First Concerto the young Chinese pianist Yuja Wang excels with brilliant fingerwork, light pedaling and discreetly intelligent touches of rubato. Too often Mendelssohn’s double octaves are a signal to pianists to jam the right foot down – not here, where they are not only accurate but phrased. No praise is too high for her bonus performance of the Three Movements from Petrushka, a feast of athletic pianism but with due value placed on the underlying melancholy of the work. She is undoubtedly a major talent.


In the Scottish Symphony Kurt Masur exerts an easy, grandfatherly authority over his young orchestra, who obviously understand his sometimes mysterious manual choreography and reward him with a sparkling performance and some stylish wind playing, from the first clarinet especially. The camerawork is a touch fussy for my taste – in the Stravinsky I got rather tired of hand shots from below. But what a pleasure to watch a young pianist so free of gesturing or grimacing! Roger Nichols