Reformation: Works by Mendelssohn, Stravinsky et al

Daniel Frankel, Yiva Larsdotter, Samuel Coppin, John Axelsson, Tom Poulson; Västerås Sinfonietta/Simon Crawford-Phillips (dB Productions)

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Reformation
Mendelssohn Symphony No. 5 (Reformation); Stravinsky Ragtime; Fanfare for a New Theater; plus pieces by JS Bach/Webern, Debussy/Ravel, R Schumann/Britten and Tarrodi
*Daniel Frankel, Yiva Larsdotter  (violin), Samuel Coppin (cello), John Axelsson, Tom Poulson (trumpet); Västerås Sinfonietta/Simon Crawford-Phillips
dB Productions dBCD187
56:49 mins

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For all the spirited playing by the Swedish musicians of the Västerås Sinfonietta, or the driving force of their music director Simon Crawford-Phillips, the individual performances here are not this album’s chief selling point. Instead it is the programme’s smorgasbord: a buffet-style spread offering Mendelssohn’s meaty Reformation Symphony, a spoonful of Schumann’s Violin Concerto, palette cleansers like Stravinsky’s Rag-time and Webern’s arrangement of Bach’s Ricercar from The Musical Offering, and a final colourful, pungent dessert of Debussy’s Tarantelle Styrienne orchestrated by Ravel.

The clue to the mystery lies in the collection title’s play on words, with Mendelssohn’s symphony commissioned for the 300th anniversary of the Augsburg Confession (a milestone in Martin Luther’s Protestation Reformation) followed by works not so much reformed as re-formed. Schumann’s spoonful – the lovely slow movement (soloist, Daniel Frankel) – gets in through Britten’s recently discovered tweaking of its indecisive last bars. Webern’s pointillist colours bring a fresh perspective to Bach; and so on, through the heady whirl of Ravel’s Debussy, to the sharp corners of Stravinsky’s 1964 Fanfare for a New Theatre and the disruptive clatter of Ragtime – not music, I suspect, that Martin Luther would have enjoyed. The brain is stimulated; the ears are teased; but for how many playings?

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Geoff Brown