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Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Felix Mendelssohn - Symphonies; Overtures (Claudio Abbado)


Composer: Felix Mendelssohn

  • (01-04) Symphony No. 1 in C minor, Op. 11
  • (05) Scherzo in G minor from the Octet, Op. 20
  • (06) Overture to Shakespeare's "A Midsummer Night's Dream", Op. 21
  • (07) Overture "The Hebrides" ("Fingal's Cave"), Op. 26
  • (08) "Meeresstille und glückliche Fahrt", Op. 27
  • (01-14) Symphony No. 2 in B flat major, Op. 52 "Hymn of Praise"
  • (01-04) Symphony No. 3 in A minor, Op. 56 "Scottish"
  • (05) Overture "The Fair Melusine", Op. 32
  • (06) "Trumpet Overture", Op. 101
  • (07) "Ruy Blas", Op. 95
  • (01-04) Symphony No. 4 in A major, Op. 90 "Italian"
  • (05-08) Symphony No. 5 in D minor, Op. 107 "Reformation"
  • (09) Overture for Wind Instruments, Op. 24

Elizabeth Connell, soprano (Op. 52)
Karita Mattila, soprano (Op. 52)
Hans Peter Blochwitz, tenor (Op. 52)
London Symphony Chorus (Op. 52) & Orchestra
Claudio Abbado, conductor

Date: 1984-1986
Label: Deutsche Grammophon



It is in the choral Second Symphony that the advantage of the wide-ranging digital sound comes out most strikingly, in clarifying the big tuttis with choir, at the same time providing extra weight of sound, notably in the way that pedal notes on the organ come over in a rich and realistic way. As to interpretation, Abbado in the first instrumental movement conveys a keener sense of joy with a wide expressive range. Again, in the choral finale Abbado’s speeds tend to be a degree more relaxed and the sense of joyful release is all the keener. His three soloists are very fine and their tonal beauty and natural feeling for words and phrasing are a delight. So too is the singing of the London Symphony Chorus, particularly beautiful in the chorale, ‘Nun danket alle Gott’.

It is that avoidance of Victorian blandness which is striking in Abbado’s accounts of Nos 1 and 5. In No 1 he is tough and biting, slower and simpler in the second movement, returning to a tough, dark manner for the Minuet and finale. This is a performance which has one marvelling that Mendelssohn could ever have countenanced the idea of the Octet Scherzo as substitute, a piece so different in mood. The first movement of the Reformation finds Abbado in dramatic mood, and crisper and again quicker in the second movement Allegro vivace.

In both the Scottish and Italian Symphonies Abbado’s earlier Decca versions clearly come into contention, but where in the Scottish the differences of interpretation are relatively unimportant – mainly a question of the slow movement being a little slower and heavier this time – those in the Italian are more striking. Here the outer movements are fractionally faster than before, and that difference brings just a hint of breathlessness in the playing of the LSO; but whatever my disappointment over those movements, this is now the most centrally recommendable version of the Italian on CD.

As for the overtures, they too bring fresh and attractive performances, very fast and fleet in the fairy music of A Midsummer Night’s Dream and with the contrast between first and second subjects of The Hebrides underlined. This was one of Abbado’s biggest recording projects with the orchestra of which he was music director and remains a richly rewarding legacy.

-- Gramophone

More reviews:


Felix Mendelssohn (3 February 1809 – 4 November 1847) was a German composer, pianist, organist and conductor of the early Romantic period. He was among the most popular composers of the Romantic era. Like Mozart, he was recognized early as a musical prodigy. Mendelssohn enjoyed early success in Germany, where he also revived interest in the music of Johann Sebastian Bach, and in his travels throughout Europe. He was particularly well received in Britain as a composer, conductor and soloist, visited there ten times. His essentially conservative musical tastes, however, set him apart from many of his more adventurous musical contemporaries.


Claudio Abbado (26 June 1933 – 20 January 2014) was an Italian conductor. One of the most celebrated and respected conductors of the 20th century, he served as music director of the La Scala opera house in Milan, principal conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra, principal guest conductor of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, music director of the Vienna State Opera, and principal conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic orchestra. Abbado performed a wide range of Romantic works and recorded extensively for a variety of labels.


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