Mendelssohn: Octet in E flat, Op. 20; Quintet No. 2 in B flat, Op. 87

COMPOSERS: Mendelssohn
LABELS: Resonance
ALBUM TITLE: Mendelssohn Bruch
WORKS: Octet in E flat, Op. 20; Quintet No. 2 in B flat, Op. 87
PERFORMER: Primavera Chamber Ensemble
Anyone seeking a strongly delineated and well-engineered modern recording of Mendelssohn’s Octet will not be disappointed by the Naxos issue. Featuring two of Hungary’s finest quartets, this performance captures all the youthful fervour of the opening Allegro moderato, the brilliant delicacy of the Scherzo and the driving perpetual motion of the Finale, whilst also finding an air of mystery and unexpected darkness in the slow movement. On initial hearing, the first violinist seemed over-emphatic with some of the accents in the opening movement, though in fairness Mendelssohn marks the music to be played con fuoco. It’s also possible that I had been conditioned by the more genial and spontaneous approach offered by the ASMF Chamber Ensemble’s late-1970s performance on Philips – a strong front runner for this work.


As it happens, the reissue of early 1990s Primavera Chamber Ensemble version of the Octet on Resonance offers the same coupling of the 1845 Second Quintet as the Philips disc, but is severely disadvantaged by a muffled recording that tends to make the very worthy playing sound under-characterised and somewhat monochromatic in texture. The filler on the Naxos disc, on the other hand, is far more interesting in highlighting a relatively unknown but charming Octet by Bruch. Erik Levi