Leland Chen is expert, if not a little inscrutable, in this naturally paced and, from time to time, pleasingly eloquent reading of Mendelssohn's E-Minor Concerto. What this former protégé of the late Lord Menuhin possesses in abundance, though, is the silken tone and technical refinement so expressly demanded by this most pristine and mercurial of Romantic violin concertos. Chen sets a brisk but workable tempo for the Finale, often dashed off at nonsensical speed by today's fast-fingered (but often cerebrally atrophied) Wunderkinds, and the fact put me instantly in mind of Gustav Mahler's time-honored (but often misconstrued) dictum—that the fastest tempo for any music is that which still allows all the notes to be clearlyRead more heard. I liked, too, Chen's palpitating fast-vibrato apprehension during the little bridge passage linking Andante and Allegro molto vivace finale, where the soloist once again muses over the material that opens the work—it's very creditably handled in this account. I mentioned inscrutability too. There is, in the view of this listener, a certain detachment evident in the somewhat blustering, stormy approach that Chen adopts in the opening Allegro: passionate, certainly, but without that certain intimation of tragedy that Menuhin himself often managed to instill. That said, I would still commend this pretty highly as an entry level performance, for it's very well played and recorded, and a major contender at budget price.
Turning to Jane Glover's assured and adroit reading of the incidental music to A Midsummer Night's Dream, one need only add that here, too, is a thoroughly committed and serviceable version that invites serious interest, particularly at the price. While it could be argued that Glover is certainly no Beecham, neither is today's Royal Philharmonic Beecham's RPO, nor should we expect the same wistful naturalness and unmannered sentimentality from them, if indeed this music really needs such things after all. But today's RPO players certainly acquit themselves splendidly throughout this hugely enjoyable performance. The Impressionistic opening of the overture is magical, as is the lovely solo horn in the Nocturne, and it's good to find the Dance of the Clowns, so often excluded in recordings of this incidental score, slotted in to round off this estimable budget release. True, there are other, more glamorous and certainly more costly alternatives, but for the collector who may not yet have these works on his or her shelves, this rich and brilliant-sounding disc probably represents a front-line contender in this field.
Concerto for Violin in E minor, Op. 64by Felix Mendelssohn Performer:
Leland Chen (Violin)
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Romantic Written: 1844; Germany