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Mendelssohn: Antigone / Jun Markl, MDR Leipzig Radio Symphony & Choir

Mendelssohn / Markl / Mdr Sinfonieorchester
Release Date: 07/30/2013 
Label:  Mdr Records   Catalog #: 1202   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Felix Mendelssohn
Performer:  Thomas RatzakAndreas FischerThomas Oertel-gormannsKristian Sorensen,   ... 
Conductor:  Jun Märkl
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Leipzig Radio Symphony OrchestraLeipzig Radio Chorus Male Voices
Number of Discs: 1 
Length: 1 Hours 19 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

MENDELSSOHN Antigone Jun Märkl, cond; Dominique Horwitz ( Creon ); Anna Franziska Srna ( Antigone ); Anna Berg ( Ismene ); Nikolaus Okonkwo ( Guard, Servant ); Tilo Prückner ( Tiresias ); Simon Zigah ( Haemon ); Thomas Oertel-Gormanns (bs); Andreas Read more Fischer (ten); Kristian Sørensen (ten); Thomas Ratzak (bs); Gun-Wook Lee (bs); MDR Leipzig RS Ch & O MDR 1202 (79:58) Live: Leipzig 1/11/2009

This excellent new recording of Mendelssohn’s incidental music for Antigone complements two prior releases of this work, both of which received good reviews: the Stuttgart Chamber Choir and Philharmonic under Frieder Bernius (Carus 83224), and the Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra and Chorus conducted by Stefan Soltesz (Brilliant Classics 94216). Not having heard those recordings, I’m puzzled by the fact that the latter performance clocks in at only 54 minutes (according to ArkivMusic), since this recording takes nearly a full 80 minutes and I don’t get the feeling that Jun Märkl is conducting any of it particularly slowly. On the contrary, his tempos are relatively brisk, his phrasing crisp and with an appropriately granitic quality suited to Greek drama. In fact, after hearing this recording I realized what was wrong in his conducting of the Dvo?ák Cello Concerto with Zuill Bailey: Märkl’s tendencies lean towards both modern and Classical-era music, which makes him a strange fit for a romantic like Dvo?ák.

But, as other reviewers of the previous two recordings have said, the real star of the show is Mendelssohn’s music, plain and simple. The more I hear of this composer, the greater he grows in my estimation, and his firm and sure grasp of Greek drama (he had been a student of it since he was a child) makes this a perfect fit. His posthumous reputation as “the Mozart of the 19th century” is thus, to some extent, belied by pieces like this and Erste Walpurgis-Nacht, where his dramatic force seems much closer to Cherubini and Gluck than it was to Mozart. And everyone involved with this project gives 110 percent: the chorus (listen to the blending of the small men’s chorus—and their fabulous diction), the orchestra (as I said, Märkl is a classicist to his core), and the bass soloist (Thomas Oertel-Gormann, whose voice is like rolling thunder—one of those German basses that, if it were on a 1907 recording, would fetch high prices from shellac collectors), and particularly the actors, who sound as if they were giving a real Greek drama performance except that they’re speaking German.

As is so often the case nowadays, no text is included with this recording, not even one in German (the Brilliant Classics version also lacks a libretto), but what a great release! I was able to track down an apparently out-of-copyright 1871 English translation at the Internet Archive for free download (archive.org/details/antigoneantigone00soph). I only wish I hadn’t missed MDR Klassik’s issue of Mendelssohn’s incidental music for Athalia.

FANFARE: Lynn René Bayley
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Works on This Recording

Antigone, Op. 55 by Felix Mendelssohn
Performer:  Thomas Ratzak (Bass), Andreas Fischer (Tenor), Thomas Oertel-gormanns (Bass),
Kristian Sorensen (Tenor), Gun-Wook Lee (Bass)
Conductor:  Jun Märkl
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Leipzig Radio Symphony Orchestra,  Leipzig Radio Chorus Male Voices
Period: Romantic 
Written: Germany 

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