Violin Concerto in D minor; String Symphonies Nos 1-6
Munich Radio Orchestra/Henry Raudales
BR Klassik 900324 74:13 mins
It’s hard to believe that Mendelssohn hadn’t even reached his teens at the time he turned out the first half-dozen of his sinfonias for strings. They are astonishingly assured pieces, bursting with youthful energy and full of ingenious counterpoint which Mendelssohn must have learned from his new teacher, the proficient but unimaginative Carl Friedrich Zelter. The main influence seems to have been the quirky pieces of the same kind which CPE Bach composed nearly half a century earlier. Like Bach, Mendelssohn sometimes has the music break off in midstream, allowing the following movement to enter impatiently; and its abrupt pauses and unexpected shifts of key also owe something to his predecessor.
The strings of the Munich Radio Orchestra under their long-time leader, Henry Raudales, give lively and alert accounts of these precocious pieces, full of imaginative touches. The prestissimo finale of the Sinfonia No. 6, for instance, is interrupted by a mysterious staccato passage in the minor. Raudales takes it at a slower tempo, allowing himself an accelerando to lead in to the recapitulation – maybe not authentic, but undeniably effective. The D minor Concerto for violin and strings, written when Mendelssohn was all of 13, isn’t a patch on the famous violin concerto he composed more than 20 years later, but it’s a spirited enough piece with a rousing gypsy-style finale. Raudales shows himself to be a really fine player, and he keeps his colleagues on their toes throughout.