Mendelssohn: Der Onkel aus Boston

Our rating 
3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

COMPOSERS: Mendelssohn
LABELS: Hanssler
ALBUM TITLE: Der Onkel aus Boston
WORKS: Der Onkel aus Boston
PERFORMER: Kate Royal, Carsten Süß, Julia Bauer, Lothar Odinius, Bernd Valentin, István Kovács, Andreas Daum; Gächinger Kantorei Stuttgart; Bach-Collegium Stuttgart/Helmuth Rilling
CATALOGUE NO: CD 98.221
Mendelssohn was just 14 when he composed Der Onkel aus Boston (also known as Die beiden Neffen – ‘The Two Nephews’) as a domestic entertainment for his family circle. It’s a comic opera of mistaken identities, with a wafer-thin plot that seems to come to a standstill after the first Act. The spoken dialogue for Act III is lost, but in any case this concert performance – the first recording of the work in any form – sensibly omits the speech altogether, and concentrates on the musical numbers. Certainly, they are remarkably precocious, though they can’t compare in quality or originality with the B minor Piano Quartet Mendelssohn composed in the same year. The overture, with its opening bars scored for a solo quartet of horns, shows the influence of Weber; and so, too, does some of the music in the ballet interludes of the first two Acts. But the rest is unmemorable stuff, and it will take more than this dedicated but fairly routine performance to rescue it from oblivion.

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Among the singers, Kate Royal stands out for the warmth of her characterisation in the central soprano role; but the entire cast seems to have thrown itself into the project with enthusiasm. A pity, though, that the voices sound at times too close – perhaps as a result of including takes from a ‘patching’ session. Misha Donat