This CD is reissued by ArkivMusic.
Notes and Editorial Reviews
A Midsummer Night’s Dream:
Overture & Incidental Music.
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
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
Overture as a filler, and that’s a great performance, too.
FANFARE: Lynn René Bayley
Works on This Recording
Midsummer Night's Dream, Op. 61 by Felix Mendelssohn
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)
Paris Orchestral Ensemble,
Jeune Choeur de Paris,
Oxford and Cambridge Shakespeare Company
Written: 1842; Germany
Ruy Blas Overture, Op. 95 by Felix Mendelssohn
Paris Orchestral Ensemble
Written: 1839; Germany
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