Notes and Editorial Reviews
This is a hybrid Super Audio CD playable on both regular and Super Audio CD players.
Concerto for Piano and Violin in d. Violin Concerto in e
Ursula Schoch (vn); Nina Tichman (pn); Theo Wolters, cond; New PO Westphalia
EBS 6153 (Hybrid multichannel SACD: 64:01)
There has been no more prolific and skilled young composer in the history of music than
Felix Mendelssohn. In fact, one of the criticisms often leveled at him is that very little in the way of artistic development happened between his early and final years. It was known during the Romantic era as the “Mendelssohn problem.” Was he simply an unreformed Classicist or a burgeoning Romantic? Of course, during Beethoven’s early years the same things were being asked about him, and are even so today in many college survey courses. For me, Mendelssohn was no doubt a Classicist, at least in form, but always guided by the emerging Romantic spirit. He was just not ready to abandon the tried and true techniques of an older era that he so loved. But nothing like the Overture to
A Midsummer’s Night’s Dream
, written at the delicate age of 16, ever popped out of the Classical period, and one can only imagine Mozart being quite taken aback if he had heard this piece, albeit pleasantly so.
But if we are thrilled to hear that particular overture, and amazed at the proclivities of one so young (thinking about what
were doing at that age), the incredulity only deepens when we step back a full two years and behold the magisterial pronouncements of young Felix in a work like his Concerto for Piano, Violin, and Orchestra. This work is a genuine masterpiece, and I am surprised at how few recordings exist. There is nothing pedantic or commonplace about it; indeed the composer was already borrowing some advanced techniques from people like Beethoven in his use of introducing new themes in the recapitulation, though this is done by Mendelssohn in a manner completely unstudied and natural. It is a wonderful piece, and even the ghost of Mozart shows up in the second movement in a theme wonderfully reminiscent of the slow movement to the G-major Violin Concerto. I daresay that few if any composers at that age have equaled its accomplishments. Ursula Schoch and Nina Tichman throw themselves into the piece with abandon, showing us the inner romantic lurking in the young composer. Perhaps only Isabelle van Keulen and Ronald Brautigam on a BIS disc give as interesting and committed a performance, and Andrew Penny conducts Marat Bisengaliev and Benjamin Frith on a cheapie Naxos disc that might be a good choice in that the D-minor Violin Concerto is also offered instead of its more famous cousin. Neither has the sound of this very well-engineered SACD.
When we come to the famous E-Minor Concerto we enter a world that, while not so different from the “Double” Concerto, is more tempered in expression, properly manicured, and has the considerable emotional temper at least more contained. Schoch, one-time violinist under Abbado at the Berlin PO and now leader of the violins of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, enters the fray with some confidence and gives us a solid, fully competitive reading that will win you away from your favorites. If I have any criticism, it is only that her playing seems to me a little heavy-handed; I miss some of the lightness of touch that Heifetz brings to the last movement. And while I cannot say that I will never listen to Salerno-Sonnenberg (EMI), Mutter (DGG), or Mintz (DGG) again because of this one, I can say that this piece has never been recorded better. The New Philharmonic of Westphalia, culled together from two orchestras in the late 1990s, plays remarkably well, Mendelssohnian to the core. This is recommended for the great sound, terrific “Double” Concerto, with a very fine traditional E-Minor as a bonus, though I do understand that it may not be enough to persuade some collectors.
FANFARE: Steven E. Ritter
Works on This Recording
Concerto for Violin in E minor, Op. 64 by Felix Mendelssohn
Ursula Schoch (Violin)
New Philharmonie Westphalia
Written: 1844; Germany
Concerto for Piano and Violin in D minor by Felix Mendelssohn
Ursula Schoch (Violin),
Nina Tichman (Piano)
New Philharmonie Westphalia
Written: 1823; Germany
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