Mendelssohn: Die erste Walpurgisnacht; Leise zieht durch mein Gemüth (arr. Matthus)

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COMPOSERS: Mendelssohn
LABELS: RCA Victor Red Seal
WORKS: Die erste Walpurgisnacht; Leise zieht durch mein Gemüth (arr. Matthus)
PERFORMER: Jadwiga Rappé (alto), Deon van der Walt (tenor), Anton Scharinger (baritone), Matthias Hölle (bass)Bamberg SO & Chorus/Claus Peter Flor
CATALOGUE NO: 09026 62513 2
Mendelssohn’s dramatic cantata based on Goethe’s poem could not be more different in style from the 19th-century piety most people still associate with his choral music. His depiction of a witches’ sabbath may not be quite as outrageous as that of Berlioz, but it does inspire some superb writing for the chorus in particular. Claus Peter Flor is at home in this repertoire, producing a crackling performance with the Bamberg Orchestra and Chorus. The four soloists are adequate rather than inspired: Anton Scharinger’s Priest is rather hollow-voiced, where the work demands the fiery conviction of Thomas Hampson or Anthony Michaels-Moore (soloists on the Harnoncourt and D’Avalos recordings respectively). Flor’s coupling is intriguing: orchestral transcriptions of 12 Mendelssohn songs (including four of the Songs without Words) made over the last few years by the leading German composer Siegfried Matthus. These are delivered with great beauty of tone and sensitivity to the text by the tenor Deon van der Walt. Matthus’s versions have an authentically Mendelssohnian feel, with the merest touch of extra percussion and harp to keep the composer amused. Stephen Maddock