WORKS: Discoveries: The Hebrides Overture; Symphony No. 3 (Scottish); Piano Concerto No. 3 (reconstr. Bufalini)
PERFORMER: Robert Prosseda (piano); Gewandhausorchester/Riccardo Chailly
CATALOGUE NO: 478 1525
For most of the record-buying public the pieces on this disc probably are ‘discoveries’, even if they’ve been known to Mendelssohnians for years. The ‘London’ version of the Scottish Symphony gives us 39 bars of extra music and some different scoring elsewhere, but confirms the composer’s wisdom in publishing the slightly condensed version we all know.
More interesting are the early ‘Rome’ version of The Hebrides Overture and a reconstruction by Marcello Bufalini of sketches for the Third Piano Concerto.
The early version of the Overture is pretty much a different work using the same themes – and as often with Mendelssohn’s reworkings, both versions have so many charms, one hesitates to choose between them. Surely he was being too hard on the original development section when he damned it as smacking ‘more of counterpoint than of train oil, seagulls and dried salted fish’.
The Concerto is not entirely convincing, especially the third movement which Bufalini has constructed merely from an initial theme and a few bars of figuration. It’s also rather short: the finales of the two earlier concertos are both roughly equal in length to their slow movements. But the harmonies throughout are Mendelssohnian, Robert Prosseda’s fingers suitably agile, and the central Andante delightful.
Mostly the recording is good. But for some reason, in the Symphony the horns are too often given their head, notably in the first fully scored rendering of the second movement tune, which is totally obliterated. Richard Strauss told conductors, ‘never look encouragingly at the brass’. Or, in this case, at the timpanist. Roger Nichols