Mendelssohn: Sonata Op. 65/2 & 6; Allegro in D; Allegro con brio in B flat

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COMPOSERS: Mendelssohn
LABELS: Somm
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Jennifer Bate’s project to record the complete organ works of Mendelssohn, including much hitherto unpublished music, has reached Volume Two (of five).

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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.

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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