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Mendelssohn: A Midsummer Night's Dream, Etc / Nelson, Et Al

Release Date: 04/08/2003 
Label:  Erato   Catalog #: 5455322   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Felix Mendelssohn
Performer:  Rebecca EvansJoyce DiDonatoHenry MurrayJohn Green,   ... 
Conductor:  John Nelson
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Paris Orchestral EnsembleJeune Choeur de ParisOxford and Cambridge Shakespeare Company
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 17 Mins. 

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This CD is reissued by ArkivMusic.

Notes and Editorial Reviews

MENDELSSOHN A Midsummer Night’s Dream: Overture & Incidental Music. Ruy Blas: Overture John Nelson, cond; Rebecca Evans (s); Joyce di Donato (ms); Le Jeune Ch de Paris; Oxford & Cambridge Shakespeare Co; Paris O Ens VIRGIN 45532 (77:12 Text and Translation)

Within the 77 minutes of this disc nestles the absolute greatest performance of Mendelssohn’s Read more style="font-style:italic">Midsummer Night’s Dream music I’ve ever heard. True, soprano Rebecca Evans is just pretty good and not great, as Kathleen Battle is on the more famous Ozawa recording on DG, but we are compensated by hearing the great Joyce di Donato at the very outset of her career (2001) sing the mezzo lines, and John Nelson takes this music at exactly the right clip for each and every piece. No rushing through the overture as Toscanini did with the Philadelphia Orchestra (though that, for an incomplete recording, is still one of the best). No slowing down the Wedding March, as Ozawa and others do, or for that matter slowing down the overture so that it bounces but doesn’t sparkle. Nelson, quite simply, hits all the right tempos, achieves the proper lightness, excitement, and atmosphere, makes magic of every single phrase of the music, and much to my surprise includes a very generous portion of spoken dialog from the play (performed very well by the Oxford & Cambridge Company actors) that makes this one of the most atmospheric and satisfying of listening experiences. My only reservation is that, in my American prejudice, I tend to think of Puck as sounding like 16-year-old Mickey Rooney, not like a 30-year-old lorry driver from Liverpool, but I’ve heard other productions of the play and this appears to be the standard British interpretation of the role.

It’s so good, in fact, that once you listen you won’t want to hear it piecemeal any more. You won’t want to hear just the music and not the scenes from the play. You’ll always want to hear it thus, as a complete musical-theatrical experience, one that transports you to Shakespeare’s midsummer night even if you’re listening in the chilblain dark of a January eve. Oh, yes, Nelson also manages to squeeze in the Ruy Blas Overture as a filler, and that’s a great performance, too.

FANFARE: Lynn René Bayley
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Works on This Recording

Midsummer Night's Dream, Op. 61 by Felix Mendelssohn
Performer:  Rebecca Evans (Soprano), Joyce DiDonato (Mezzo Soprano), Henry Murray (Voice),
John Green (Voice), Niel Ross (Voice), Jonathan James-Moore (Voice),
Michael Howarth (Voice), Phil Edmonds (Voice), Stephen Wright (Voice)
Conductor:  John Nelson
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Paris Orchestral Ensemble,  Jeune Choeur de Paris,  Oxford and Cambridge Shakespeare Company
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1842; Germany 
Language: English 
Midsummer Night's Dream Overture, in E major Op. 21 by Felix Mendelssohn
Conductor:  John Nelson
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Paris Orchestral Ensemble
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1826; Germany 
Ruy Blas Overture, Op. 95 by Felix Mendelssohn
Conductor:  John Nelson
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Paris Orchestral Ensemble
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1839; Germany 

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