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Mendelssohn & Widmann: 
Hebrides Overture;
 Symphony No. 3
; 180 beats per minute; Fantasie

Irish Chamber Orchestra/Jörg Widmann (Orfeo)

Our rating 
3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0
cd_mendelssohn_cmyk

Mendelssohn • Widmann Hebrides Overture; Symphony No. 3; 180 beats per minute; Fantasie
Irish Chamber Orchestra/Jörg Widmann
Orfeo C945181A 62.04 mins

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Context makes quite a difference to the way you respond to a familiar piece of music. Here two of Mendelssohn’s best-known orchestral works frame Jörg Widmann’s high-voltage explorations of rhythm and solo instrumental virtuosity. On paper, the programme planning seems incongruous, since there appears to be no obvious stylistic connection between the two composers. Yet in practice, the contrasts work surprisingly well and unexpected parallels emerge. One good example juxtaposes the improvisatory fluidity of Widmann’s brilliantly played solo clarinet piece Fantasie with the spontaneously phrased recitative writing for the violins near the opening of the first movement of the Scottish Symphony. It helps of course that Widmann presents Mendelssohn in a much more uncompromising light than is often the case. The fast outer movements of the Scottish Symphony are characterised by raw nervous energy and dynamic forward momentum. Widmann is particularly effective in projecting the menacing stormy climax near the end of the first movement, but he also gives more lyrical material sufficient space and does not shirk from imposing considerable fluctuations in tempo and wide-ranging dynamics to effect maximum contrast. The Irish Chamber Orchestra plays with strong commitment throughout this disc, although it’s a pity that there are a few moments of wayward ensemble particularly in the first movement of the Symphony, and the Scherzo perhaps needs a bit more charm to work in tandem with its blistering pace.

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Erik Levi