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Mendelssohn: Symphonies Nos 1 & 3 (SCO/Dausgaard)

Swedish Chamber Orchestra/Thomas Dausgaard (BIS)

Our rating 
3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

Symphonies Nos 1 & 3 ‘Scottish’
Swedish Chamber Orchestra/Thomas Dausgaard
BIS BIS-2469 (CD/SACD)   66:26 mins


Mendelssohn was blessed with a ridiculous amount of talent, nurtured in the fertile ground of a cultured family. With his exceptional sensitivity, he conveyed all sides of the emotional spectrum in his music – a medium he found more precisely expressive than words could ever be. Often his works have an extraordinarily driven, nervous energy about them, but they also hold innumerable emotions ranging from charm to introspection, from sorrow to elation and from public grandeur to a fizz of personal joy.

The (official) Symphony No. 1, rarely heard, dates from when he was all of 15. The angst of youth shines through its irrepressible score; at times it is derivative (elements of the finale recall Mozart’s Symphony No. 40), but remains never less than engaging. The Scottish Symphony, meanwhile, needs no introduction.

Thomas Dausgaard homes in on Mendelssohn’s fiery energy, setting the Swedish Chamber Orchestra’s playing satisfactorily ablaze. The approach pays dividends in No. 1, which flares out in brilliant technicolour. Nevertheless, perhaps the Scottish begins to suffer from a surfeit of the hard drive, so to speak, with tone veering towards the over-aggressive too often and for too long. Some moments here could benefit from a lighter touch, and even a little more vibrato could have brought variety and colour to ameliorate some of the harshness. In short, it is extremely well performed, but a little bit relentless. The recorded sound has plenty of clarity, if at the expense of warmth.


Jessica Duchen