Mendelssohn/Schoenberg/Debussy

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5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Mendelssohn/Schoenberg/Debussy
LABELS: Orfeo
WORKS: Symphony No. 3 in A minor (Scottish); Variations for Orchestra; La mer
PERFORMER: Berlin PO/Dimitri Mitropoulos
CATALOGUE NO: C 488 981 B ADD mono
A truly extraordinary disc. Quite clearly the partnership between the mercurial Dimitri Mitropoulos and the Berlin Philharmonic reaped tremendous results in this public concert given at the 1960 Salzburg Festival. Rarely can Mendelssohn’s Scottish Symphony have been delivered with such dramatic sweep and passionate intensity. For once, the storm passages near the end of the first movement really send shivers down the spine, and in the ensuing Scherzo, the orchestra’s virtuosity and precision of ensemble are simply staggering. But the performance is not simply fast and furious, for Mitropoulos secures the most tender string tone in the main theme of the Adagio, and there’s also a marvellous feeling of repose just before the triumphant coda to the finale.

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Schoenberg’s Variations, conducted apparently from memory, are no less impressive. Once again, Mitropoulos manages to achieve an almost ideal balance between emotional passion and intellectual control, and the orchestra rises to the occasion with playing of great commitment and exemplary clarity. Given the sheer concentration that must have been required to perform this technically demanding score to such a high standard, one might have expected a lowering of tension in the Debussy. But the adrenalin flows just as urgently here, and although the orchestral balance is occasionally confusing (the harps are far too prominent at times), the mono recording is more than acceptable. Erik Levi