Mendelssohn: Violin Concerto; Octet for Strings; Auf Flügeln des Gesages, Op. 34/2; Suleika, Op. 34/4; Hexenlied, Op. 8/8

COMPOSERS: Mendelssohn
LABELS: DG
ALBUM TITLE: Mendelssohn
WORKS: Violin Concerto; Octet for Strings; Auf Flügeln des Gesages, Op. 34/2; Suleika, Op. 34/4; Hexenlied, Op. 8/8
PERFORMER: Daniel Hope (violin); Chamber Orchestra of Europe/Thomas Hengelbrock
CATALOGUE NO: 477 6634
Here’s a Mendelssohn Violin Concerto with a difference. By going back to the composer’s original 1844 version, Daniel Hope has recreated the work as it existed before Mendelssohn made his final revisions on the advice of the Concerto’s first soloist, Ferdinand David, for its publication. Comparing the composer’s first and last thoughts is fascinating. Mendelssohn’s original tempo marking for the first movement, Allegro con fuoco, gives the music much greater urgency. There are also subtle differences in the scoring, transpositions of the violin tessitura, even some entirely new notes for the soloist, and perhaps most strikingly a different, far more introspective cadenza. Listeners may also be surprised by the unexpected change of harmony right at the beginning of the middle section.

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Hope’s unfailingly musical approach, the incisive accompaniment from Hengelbrock and the COE and a well-balanced recording ensure that these details are all brought vividly to life. The performance has plenty of passion and sensitivity, the slow introduction to the Finale sounding particularly magical. My only caveat is that occasionally Hope isn’t quite as technically fluid in some of the tricky passagework (the fiendish octaves at the opening and closing of the movement are not always perfectly in tune) as is Janine Jansen in her recent scintillating recording for Decca.

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For the Octet, Hope and soloists from the COE perform the critically revised edition of 1832, again highlighting some interesting textual variants. It’s a fine performance, marred by a rather dry and unforgiving acoustic. Yet despite a wonderful sense of repose in the middle of the first movement, the playing doesn’t convey the irresistible joie de vivre as the combined Kodály/Auer Quartets on Naxos. Erik Levi