Mendelssohn: Symphony No. 1; Symphony No. 5 (Reformation); The Hebrides Overture

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COMPOSERS: Mendelssohn
LABELS: Chandos
WORKS: Symphony No. 1; Symphony No. 5 (Reformation); The Hebrides Overture
PERFORMER: The Philharmonia/Walter Weller
CATALOGUE NO: CHAN 9099 DDD
Walter Weller with the Philharmonia here presents Mendelssohn’s first and last symphonies, both of which eschew the exuberance and charm of the intermediate and better known works for a more sombre vision. The first, written when the composer was 15, rivals Mozart in its precocity, and indeed it is to Mozart that the young Mendelssohn turns for inspiration, particularly to the G minor 40th Symphony, closely echoed in the Menuetto and Trio movement. Weller conducts a brisk and sympathetic account, although one could sometimes wish for a bit more attack from the strings. Less slavishly Classical is the Fifth Symphony (Reformation), written for the tercentenary of the Augsburg Confession. With its recall of the ‘Dresden Amen’ (used also by Wagner for the Grail motif in Parsifal) and the Luther chorale ‘Ein’ feste Burg ist unser Gott’, this is his most programmatic symphony, and Weller gives it an aptly weighty reading, helped by some fine woodwind and brass playing in the lyrical central movements and chorale climaxes. There is a nicely evocative account of the Hebrides Overture, but this is a worthy rather than an inspired disc. William Humphreys-Jones

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