Mendelssohn: Piano Concerto in A minor; Double Concerto for piano, violin and orchestra in D minor

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COMPOSERS: Mendelssohn
LABELS: Harmonia Mundi
WORKS: Piano Concerto in A minor; Double Concerto for piano, violin and orchestra in D minor
PERFORMER: Kristian Bezuidenhout (fortepiano); Freiburg Baroque Orchestra/ Gottfried von der Goltz (violin)
CATALOGUE NO: Harmonia Mundi HMC 902082

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From his earliest years, Mendelssohn lived life at speed. As John Michael Cooper observes in his sleeve note, the stylistic difference between these two concertos ‘seems to reflect much more than six months’ worth of musical growth’. In the Piano Concerto of 1822 we can hear how the 13-year-old composer, later praised by Schumann for his ability in ‘reconciling the contradictions of the age’, has not yet managed those reconciliations. In the slow movement the inventive tremolandos over pizzicato basses are delightful, but are not provoked by anything, nor do they lead naturally to anything. Likewise, the Mozartian second theme in the first movement sounds surprised to find itself in such surroundings.

The Double Concerto of 1823 is far more self-confident, partly thanks to the addition of Mendelssohn’s later wind and timpani parts, giving body to a texture that otherwise does sound a touch dry to my ears. Here, ideas follow each other with unhesitating purpose, and Mendelssohn carries off the feat of enclosing violin and piano duets inside the concerto structure.

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Both soloists have a fine line in fireworks and for the most part rhythms are secure – only at the start of the Piano Concerto’s finale was I disturbed by the soloist’s rubato, which seems to add an extra beat. I would have liked a firmer way with the opening string tune in the Adagio of the Double Concerto, and quieter horns at the very end of the movement. But in general these are spirited performances, excellently recorded. Roger Nichols