Mendelssohn: Symphony No. 4, ‘Italian’; Mozart: Overtures – Mitridate, rè di Ponto; Ascanio in Alba; Lucio Silla; Schubert: Overtures in Italian Style, D 590 & 591
Filarmonica della Scala/Riccardo Chailly
Decca 485 2944 62:42 mins
Riccardo Chailly and the Filarmonica della Scala – the symphony orchestra founded in 1982 by Claudio Abbado and containing many of the opera house’s musicians – have been committing their pick of Italian music, well known and lesser, to recordings in the last few years. Now they turn to non-Italians composing in the Italian style – or at least under its influence. Recorded during the pandemic, fully masked-up, on a specially constructed stage over the stalls of La Scala, Milan to facilitate distancing for the musicians, the acoustic is notably resonant.
The thrill here is Chailly’s Mendelssohn, the composer’s Italian Symphony written during a Grand Tour of Europe in 1829, when he was in his early twenties. Here it’s given a driven account, the Filarmonica capturing Mendelssohn’s sense of dazzling youthful energy, fleet of foot. Performed in the revised version Mendelssohn completed the year after the premiere in 1833 (which itself was only published in 1997), it is thoroughly convincing in Chailly’s hands, despite the planned revisions to the first movement never having taken place. The carefully stressed hints of dark clouds the Filarmonica give under the energy and lightness of the Allegro hint effectively at a sense of heightened drama in the final movement.
Overtures dominate the rest of this recording – Schubert’s two Overtures in the Italian style, in C and D, inspired by hearing Rossini, are a relatively sober interlude, but of the three Mozart teenage overtures written for Milan – Mitridate, re di Ponto, Asciano in Albaand Lucia di Silla – it’s the latter which engages, filled with a dramatic drive as impelled, here, as the Mendelssohn.
Sarah Urwin Jones