Notes and Editorial Reviews
*** PLEASE NOTE: THIS IS A SINGLE-LAYER SUPER AUDIO CD THAT WILL ONLY PLAY ON SUPER AUDIO CD PLAYERS. ***
String Symphonies: Nos. 1–13; No. 8 in D
Lev Markiz, cond; Amsterdam Sinfonietta
BIS 1738 (Single-layer stereo SACD: 255:55)
Here is a trend that I hope to see continue—putting non-Super Audio
recordings remastered to DSD on an SACD, saving both space and money. We have already seen this with the complete organ works of Bach on BIS, and now we have these little sparklers from Mendelssohn, four-plus hours of music on one SACD. Keep in mind that you
have an SACD player for this to work, but that the results coming from your speakers will be digital stereo and not surround sound of any kind. I must say that the fidelity of these 1993–96 readings is quite vivid and up-front, so no complaints at all in the sound department.
The other bit of good news is that there really are no
recordings of these juvenile symphonies. Mendelssohn far outshines Mozart in his ability to create mature works at an early age (these were penned between the ages of 11 and 15), and the creative fecundity in these pieces is quite astounding. Lyricism, counterpoint, drama, pathos, joy, poignancy—these are all here in spades. When I think of what I was doing at 11, well, you get the idea. There are no comparable works that I am aware of by any composer
from that age as significant and important as these. Many ensembles have tried their hands at these, and most succeed. There are at least four or five complete sets worth hearing, though no one is particularly elevated above the other. Hence advantages like number of discs and price come into play. With those two criteria (with the addition of a third—your possession of an SACD player), this new repackaging wins hands down over most others.
The playing is stunning. Lev Markiz and his 26-member company perform these pieces with a maturity far beyond the age of the composer when he composed them. There is excitement aplenty and a lot of sterling ensemble work. Is it the best? Tough to say. Roy Goodman and his Hanover Band on a three-disc RCA set gives us almost four hours (shorn only of the full orchestra version of Symphony No. 8, given here) in effervescent readings of great panache and lithe execution. Agnieszka Duczmal has great sound on an Arts set that is quite pricey at around $40. Nicholas Ward on Naxos and William Boughton on an overly reverberant Nimbus recording offer acceptable readings at a good price. But this BIS, at least if you have an SACD player (and you should at this point), must be said to lead the pack. If no player, I would opt for the RCA, actually cheaper than this, but on multiple discs.
So there you have it. This is a great deal, and we will be seeing more of it. Bravo to BIS for having the foresight to offer this to the public.
FANFARE: Steven E. Ritter
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