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Mendelssohn in Birmingham, Vol. 5 - Overtures / Gardner, CBSO

Mendelssohn / Gardner
Release Date: 06/07/2019 
Label:  Chandos   Catalog #: 5235  
Composer:  Felix Mendelssohn
Conductor:  Edward Gardner
Orchestra/Ensemble:  City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

Edward Gardner’s Mendelssohn in Birmingham series continues with a recording of Overtures. As with the previous volumes, a reduced size CBSO join Gardner in Birmingham Town’s Hall, where Mendelssohn himself conducted many of the UK premieres of his own orchestral works. The majority of works in the programme were written as concert overtures, spanning the length of Mendelssohn’s career from the early Midsummer Night’s Dream composed when he was just 16 though to ‘Ruy Blas’ written towards the end of his lifetime. Two of these overtures were written as the opening movements of larger works: ‘St Paul’, his first great Oratorio from 1836, and his overture to ‘Athalie’, incidental music written for Racine’s play. The Trumpet Overture is the Read more earliest work here, written possibly to precede a performance of Handel’s Israel in Egypt, and allegedly Mendelssohn’s father’s favourite piece!

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REVIEW:

Of the big four, I particularly enjoyed the recording of Meeresstille und glückliche Fahrt; Gardner and the CBSO offer a really nuanced view and the sonorities of the music break through. It is also nice to have it differently tracked for the Calm Sea and the Prosperous Voyage sections. That perennial favourite, the Hebrides Overture is, as even Mendelssohn’s main detractor, Richard Wagner, put it, a masterpiece, and here receives a very fine recording. The bold use of the period sounding timpani in the overture to Ein Sommernachtstraum is quite effective. According to Bayan Northcott’s notes, Mendelssohn immensely disliked the play Ruy Blas, so its music does not really reflect the plot and the happy, almost valedictory, conclusion is at odds with it. It forms a fine conclusion to this disc, and the series as a whole; it is just a pity that Gardner and the CBSO are not going on to explore further Mendelssohn’s music.

The playing throughout this disc is exemplary. I like Gardner’s choice of slightly faster tempos as it gives a real sense of drive and momentum throughout. The CBSO is on wonderful form, with Gardner bringing out the very best from the orchestra. The recorded sound on the hybrid SACD is up to Chandos’ usual high standard and, as mentioned above, the booklet notes are excellent; who else knew that Mendelssohn hated the text of Roy Blas? I didn’t. So, an excellent disc of Mendelssohn’s overtures, to which I will often return.

– MusicWeb International Read less

Works on This Recording

1.
Saint Paul, Op. 36: Overture by Felix Mendelssohn
Conductor:  Edward Gardner
Orchestra/Ensemble:  City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1836; Germany 
2.
Die schöne Melusine Overture, Op. 32 by Felix Mendelssohn
Conductor:  Edward Gardner
Orchestra/Ensemble:  City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1833; Germany 
3.
Overture in C major, Op. 101 "Trumpet Overture" by Felix Mendelssohn
Conductor:  Edward Gardner
Orchestra/Ensemble:  City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1826/1833; Germany 
4.
Hebrides Overture, in B minor Op. 26 "Fingal's Cave" by Felix Mendelssohn
Conductor:  Edward Gardner
Orchestra/Ensemble:  City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1829-1832; Rome, Italy 
5.
Athalie, Op. 74: Overture by Felix Mendelssohn
Conductor:  Edward Gardner
Orchestra/Ensemble:  City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1845; Germany 
6.
Midsummer Night's Dream Overture, in E major Op. 21 by Felix Mendelssohn
Conductor:  Edward Gardner
Orchestra/Ensemble:  City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1826; Germany 
7.
Calm Sea and Prosperous Voyage Overture, in D major Op. 27 by Felix Mendelssohn
Conductor:  Edward Gardner
Orchestra/Ensemble:  City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1828; Germany 
8.
Ruy Blas Overture, Op. 95 by Felix Mendelssohn
Conductor:  Edward Gardner
Orchestra/Ensemble:  City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1839; Germany 

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