Mendelssohn and Rihm

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COMPOSERS: Mendelssohn and Rihm
LABELS: EuroArts
ALBUM TITLE: Mendelssohn and Rihm
WORKS: Mendelssohn:
PERFORMER: Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra/Riccardo Chailly
CATALOGUE NO: 2054668 (NTSC system; dts 5.1; 16:9 anamorphic)
Riccardo Chailly’s inaugural concert as principal conductor of the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra appropriately programmed music by the orchestra’s first – and most famous – conductor; and also a specially commissioned work by one of the leading German composers of today. Wolfgang Rihm’s Verwandlung 2, with its expressive melodic chains of rising and falling thirds, is an unusually extrovert piece for a composer whose music is often more austere. It is, in fact, a brilliantly scored orchestral showpiece, superbly dispatched by the Leipzig players.

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Mendelssohn was a compulsive reviser, and many of his works exist in more than one form. More often than not, the alterations were purely cosmetic, as in the case of the Midsummer Night’s Dream Overture; but some major works underwent a thorough overhaul, such as Symphony No. 2 – the Lobgesang, or ‘Hymn of Praise’. It’s a problematic score – part symphony, part cantata – and following performances in Leipzig and Birmingham, Mendelssohn considerably expanded the solo numbers of the vocal portion. Chailly has opted for the original version, and conducts a fine performance that sensibly underplays the inherent pompousness of the opening ‘motto’ theme. There’s some irony in the fact that the film begins with a close-up of the organ, because that instrument figures only in Mendelssohn’s revised score. For the rest, this is a skilfully filmed recording, and with first-class sound, too, though the soloists are slightly recessed – perhaps because the camera-crew were anxious to avoid on-screen microphones. Misha Donat