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Mendelssohn: Complete Symphonies / Dohnanyi, Vienna Philharmonic [4-CD Collector's Edition]


Release Date: 10/19/2010 
Label:  Decca   Catalog #: 001480002  
Composer:  Felix Mendelssohn
Performer:  Josef BöchEdita GruberovaSona GhazarianHorst Laubenthal,   ... 
Conductor:  Christoph von Dohnányi
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Vienna Philharmonic OrchestraVienna State Opera ChorusVienna Singverein
Number of Discs: 4 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

Clean, dramatic and well-considered performances and recordings.

Although apart from Nos. 3 and 4 Mendelssohn’s Symphonies turn up surprisingly rarely in concert programmes there are now many complete recordings from which the collector can choose. For anyone with a special interest in the composer the chance to compare the approaches of, say, Karajan, Abbado, Sawallisch and Masur may well be irresistible, and when versions by other distinguished conductors who have recorded only individual Symphonies, including Toscanini, Norrington and Gardiner, are added the choices seem endless. All of those versions I have mentioned have real merits of their own whilst demonstrating the validity of quite different approaches to
Read more the music. The present set makes a distinguished return to the catalogue and addition to this number. The performances may now be over forty years old but unless the quality of the recording is your main interest their age would be no reason to ignore the set. The recording is indeed clear and well focused, and due I suspect to a combination of the arts of the conductor and the recording engineers much important and delightful detail is audible which often gets lost, especially in the tuttis.
 
Dohnányi’s approach is essentially classical, dramatic and at all times alert. As these are all prime qualities for successful performance of this composer’s works the results are impressive and enjoyable. The Scottish, for example, has real momentum and is never allowed to sit back on itself, even in the slow movement or in the final Allegro maestoso assai. This is even more marked in the Lobesgesang where the conductor seems consciously to be attempting to avoid any hint of the sanctimonious. I enjoyed this, although others may prefer a more romantic approach.
 
It is possible to squeeze all five Symphonies onto three discs, but here they are spread out over four. This does result in playing times that are adequate rather than generous but it also means that there is room for the Overtures, War March and, best of all, Die Erste Walpurgisnacht. Despite listening to several versions I remain unconvinced that this is one of the composer’s masterworks, but it does show his imagination in its depiction of the Druids, determined to carry on with the old religion despite the opposition of the Christians. It is given a suitably dramatic performance here, spoilt only by the curious feebleness of the soprano chorus when singing high As. Of the overtures, that to Athalie is particularly welcome - its scoring and dramatic flow make it one of my favourite Mendelssohn overtures.
 
The only serious criticism I have of the set is Dohnányi’s dislike of exposition repeats. I regret this in the Scottish but object strongly to it in the Italian where it means the loss of over twenty bars of music as well spoiling the proportions of the movement. However all too many conductors do this, and the rest of the performance is so good that it is best to overlook it.
 
There is a brief but useful note by Colin Anderson and the necessary texts and translations are available on the Decca website. All in all this set has much to recommend itself to both those with other versions already who want it as a comparison, and to those without who can be assured of clean, dramatic and well-considered performances and recordings.
 
-- John Sheppard, MusicWeb International 
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Works on This Recording

1. Symphony no 1 in C minor, Op. 11 by Felix Mendelssohn
Conductor:  Christoph von Dohnányi
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1824; Germany 
2. Symphony no 2 in B flat major, Op. 52 "Lobgesang" by Felix Mendelssohn
Performer:  Josef Böch (Organ), Edita Gruberova (Soprano), Sona Ghazarian (Soprano)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra,  Vienna State Opera Chorus
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1840; Germany 
3. Symphony no 3 in A minor, Op. 56 "Scottish" by Felix Mendelssohn
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1842; Germany 
4. Die erste Walpurgisnacht, Op. 60 by Felix Mendelssohn
Performer:  Horst Laubenthal (Tenor), Margarita Lilowa (Mezzo Soprano), Tom Krause (Baritone),
Alfred Sramek (Baritone)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra,  Vienna Singverein
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1832; Germany 
5. Symphony no 4 in A major, Op. 90 "Italian" by Felix Mendelssohn
Conductor:  Christoph von Dohnányi
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1833; Germany 
6. Symphony no 5 in D major, Op. 107 "Reformation" by Felix Mendelssohn
Conductor:  Christoph von Dohnányi
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1832; Germany 
7. Hebrides Overture, in B minor Op. 26 "Fingal's Cave" by Felix Mendelssohn
Conductor:  Christoph von Dohnányi
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1829-1832; Rome, Italy 
8. Calm Sea and Prosperous Voyage Overture, in D major Op. 27 by Felix Mendelssohn
Conductor:  Christoph von Dohnányi
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1828; Germany 
9. Athalie, Op. 74: Overture by Felix Mendelssohn
Conductor:  Christoph von Dohnányi
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1845; Germany 
10. Athalie, Op. 74: War March of the priests by Felix Mendelssohn
Conductor:  Christoph von Dohnányi
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1845; Germany 

Sound Samples

Symphony No.1 in C minor, Op.11: 1. Allegro di molto
Symphony No.1 in C minor, Op.11: 2. Andante
Symphony No.1 in C minor, Op.11: 3. Menuetto (Allegro molto)
Symphony No.1 in C minor, Op.11: 4. Allegro con fuoco
Der Erste Walpurgisnacht, Op.60: Overture
Der Erste Walpurgisnacht, Op.60: 1. Es lacht der Mai!
Der Erste Walpurgisnacht, Op.60: 2. Könnt ihr so verwegen handeln?
Der Erste Walpurgisnacht, Op.60: 3. Wer Opfer heut' zu bringen scheut
Der Erste Walpurgisnacht, Op.60: 4. Verteilt euch hier
Der Erste Walpurgisnacht, Op.60: 5. Diese dumpfen Pfaffenchristen..VI. Kommt mit Zacken
Der Erste Walpurgisnacht, Op.60: 7. So weit gebracht..VIII. Hailf, ach hilf mir...
Symphony No.2 in B flat, Op.52 - "Hymn of Praise": 1. Sinfonia: Allegro
Symphony No.2 in B flat, Op.52 - "Hymn of Praise": 1. Sinfonia: Allegretto un poco agitato
Symphony No.2 in B flat, Op.52 - "Hymn of Praise": 1. Sinfonia: Adagio religioso
Symphony No.2 in B flat, Op.52 - "Hymn of Praise": 2. "Alles was Odem hat, lobe den Herrn" - "Lobe den Herrn, meine Seele"
Symphony No.2 in B flat, Op.52 - "Hymn of Praise": 3. "Saget es, die ihr erlöst seid" - "Er zählet unsre Tränen"
Symphony No.2 in B flat, Op.52 - "Hymn of Praise": 4. "Sagt es, die ihr erlöset seid"
Symphony No.2 in B flat, Op.52 - "Hymn of Praise": 5. "Ich harrete des Herrn"
Symphony No.2 in B flat, Op.52 - "Hymn of Praise": 6. "Stricke des Todes hatten uns umfangen"
Symphony No.2 in B flat, Op.52 - "Hymn of Praise": 7. "Die Nacht ist vergangen"
Symphony No.2 in B flat, Op.52 - "Hymn of Praise": 8. "Nun danket alle Gott" - "Lob, Ehr' und Preis sei Gott"
Symphony No.2 in B flat, Op.52 - "Hymn of Praise": 9. "Drum sing ich mit meinem Liede ewig"
Symphony No.2 in B flat, Op.52 - "Hymn of Praise": 10. "Ihr Völker, bringet her dem Herrn Ehre und Macht"

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