Mendelssohn: A Midsummer Night’s Dream

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COMPOSERS: Mendelssohn
LABELS: Glossa
WORKS: A Midsummer Night’s Dream
PERFORMER: Orlanda Velez (soprano), Manuela Monìz (mezzo-soprano); Gulbenkian Choir, Orchestra of the Eighteenth Century/Frans Brüggen
CATALOGUE NO: GCD 921101
Conductors have long used Mendelssohn’s music for A Midsummer Night’s Dream to display an orchestra’s refinement, transparency and polish. By contrast, notwithstanding their characteristic smoothness, Frans Brüggen and the Orchestra of the Eighteenth Century opt to emphasise the grain of the music rather than its evanescence. Not for them the moon-drenched sheen of the so-called Nocturne – here the horn parses the melody with greater detail than usual, and the flutes in the reprise sigh passionately. Violin mists in the early stages of the overture emerge tangible and rhythmic, while the Wedding March discards the customary streamlined effect in favour of airier accent patterns. The few passages included here that were originally intended as background to speaking tend to be characterfully done: the parodistic quality of the Funeral March (including pathetic clarinet squawk) is played up, and the (perhaps involuntary) pitch bends that accompany dynamic hairpins on the flutes’ low notes in the introduction to ‘Ye spotted snakes’ helpfully anticipate the figuration that follows. Beautifully smooth but cool singing from the soloists and choir mask some questionable English diction. All told, this performance has a character all its own, but one that may sound variously heavy, rustic, or cautious to some ears. David Breckbill

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