ALBUM TITLE: Mendelssohn Organ Works
WORKS: Sonata Op. 65/2 & 6; Allegro in D; Allegro con brio in B flat
PERFORMER: Jennifer Bate (organ)
CATALOGUE NO: SOMMCD 051
Jennifer Bate’s project to record the complete organ works of Mendelssohn, including much hitherto unpublished music, has reached Volume Two (of five).
Mendelssohn’s predilection for revision and refinement of his scores has produced large numbers of variants; these are spread over five planned releases – frustratingly, Jennifer Bate’s invariably helpful notes cross-reference to volumes yet to appear, a form of coitus interruptus for the ardent, research-minded listener who wants to follow the train of Mendelssohn’s unfolding thoughts. And on this release, an interesting uncatalogued Allegro con brio of 1845 has no note – an omission worthy of correction, no doubt, in a series as important as this.
Jennifer Bate’s choice of six vintage English organs – from the Temple Church to Wimborne Minster – match the sounds of fine wood and spotted metal to the mahogany of Mendelssohn’s (for the time) innovative organ writing. Among other novelties is a Chorale and Variation probably used by Mendelssohn for an improvisation at the Thomaskirche in Leipzig (an occasion documented by Schumann); Bate completes the unfinished Variation neatly and idiomatically. The main works here are Nos 2 and 6 of the iconic Sonatas – actually portmanteau works, not necessarily in sonata form, assembled by Mendelssohn over several years, in response to a publisher’s commission.
As always, Bate’s restrained playing offers impeccable clarity, much enlivened when the explosive allegro of Sonata 6’s Variation 4 allows her to click into virtuoso mode. Graeme Kay