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Mendelssohn: Symphony No 2 / Chailly, Leipzig Gewandhaus

Mendelssohn / Rihm / Gewandhaus Orch / Chailly
Release Date: 01/17/2006 
Label:  Euroarts   Catalog #: 2054668  
Composer:  Felix MendelssohnWolfgang Rihm
Performer:  Petra Maria SchnitzerAnne SchwanewilmsPeter Seiffert
Conductor:  Riccardo Chailly
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
In Stock: Usually ships in 24 hours.  

Notes and Editorial Reviews

Recorded live at the Gewandhaus, Leipzig, 2-3 September 2005
Picture Format: NTSC · 16:9 anamorphic
Sound Formats: PCM Stereo · Dolby Digital 5.1 · DTS 5.1
Region Code: 0
Subtitles: English, German, French, Spanish
Booklet Notes: English, German, French
Running Time: 121 mins · 113 mins (Performance) + 8 mins Bonus (Chailly in Leipzig)

R E V I E W S:

This well-produced and finely recorded DVD offers more than a souvenir of Riccardo Chailly’s inaugural concert as the 19th music director in a very distinguished line of Leipzig Gewandhaus conductors. Rare first editions of well-known works as well as a world premiere by a leading Read more European composer show both conductor and orchestra in superb form.

In a brief but informative “bonus” film, Chailly says he was attracted to Leipzig by its combination of tradition and innovation. His programming for this gala evening reflects that sensibility: Mendelssohn’s popular overture and the Second Symphony are heard in their original versions. Rihm’s well-scored and substantial Verwandlung 2 emerges from the tonal and emotional world of Gustav Mahler, and this is a language that Chailly speaks particularly well.

The Overture to “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” is heard in the original 1826 edition, not terribly different to my ears from the version commonly played. Chailly’s sunny interpretation is strong on lyricism and line. It is highly enjoyable, if not displacing Thielemann’s altogether more complex recording with the Vienna Philharmonic or the glistening perfection of George Szell’s classic performance.

It is a pity that Mendelssohn’s pious works are rarely heard as frequently as the purely orchestral music, as his choral writing is first rate. The eight-part setting in German of Psalm 114 —“When Israel went out from Egypt”—with its plaintive repeated sigh “Israel, Israel” and the gently dramatic section describing the mountains skipping like lambs and the Red Sea and the Jordan driven back is very beautiful, here performed with great feeling by the choir of the Leipzig Opera (of which Chailly is also general music director).

Although the great days of the oratorio’s massive popularity are sadly behind us, Mendelssohn’s “Lobgesang” deserves more than an occasional revival. Part of its problem is its seemingly unbalanced form: a three-movement symphony connected to a cantata. The work, premiered by the Leipzig Gewandhaus in 1840 and composed for the 400th anniversary of Gutenberg’s invention of type, is heard in its original version on this DVD. While it is interesting to hear the composer’s first thoughts, the final version is immeasurably strengthened by the addition of the powerful recitative “Wir Riefen in der Finstirnis” (“We cried in the darkness”), with its urgent iterated question “Hüter, ist die Nacht bald hin” (“Watchman, is the night past?”), ending with the soprano’s triumphant “Die Nacht ist vergangen!” (“The night is past!”). Mendelssohn, with this significant addition, found the ideal transition to one of his most radiant choruses, “Die Nacht ist vergangen.” The lovely tenor aria, “Er zählet unsere Tränen” (“He numbers our tears”), is also not heard in the original version.

Chailly’s performance is warmly effective with fine choral singing, though not as strongly projected as Dohnányi’s Decca recording (of the final version) with the Vienna Philharmonic. Neither are Chailly’s soloists as strong a team as Dohnányi’s Sona Ghazarian, Edita Gruberova, and Walter Krenn (though veteran tenor Peter Seiffert brings some of the Passion of the Evangelist’s fervor to his recitatives and great conviction to his aria).

The video presentation is excellent and happily straightforward. There is one abrupt cutaway from Peter Seiffert to Chailly, but this is only briefly annoying. The stereo sound is well balanced with greater depth in a good surround mix. It is good to report that this historic and important orchestra remains in excellent hands, and one wishes Maestro Chailly a long and successful tenure in Leipzig. The concert is also available on a Decca CD ( 000550602) .

FANFARE: Michael Fine
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Works on This Recording

Symphony no 2 in B flat major, Op. 52 "Lobgesang" by Felix Mendelssohn
Performer:  Petra Maria Schnitzer (Soprano), Anne Schwanewilms (Soprano), Peter Seiffert (Tenor)
Conductor:  Riccardo Chailly
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1840; Germany 
Midsummer Night's Dream Overture, in E major Op. 21 by Felix Mendelssohn
Conductor:  Riccardo Chailly
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1826; Germany 
Psalm 114, Op. 51 by Felix Mendelssohn
Performer:  Petra Maria Schnitzer (Soprano), Anne Schwanewilms (Soprano), Peter Seiffert (Tenor)
Conductor:  Riccardo Chailly
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1839; Germany 
Verwandlung 2 by Wolfgang Rihm
Conductor:  Riccardo Chailly
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra
Written: 2005 

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