Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Felix Mendelssohn - Symphony No. 3; A Midsummer Night's Dream (Peter Maag)


Composer: Felix Mendelssohn
  1. Symphony No. 3 in A minor, Op. 56 - "Scottish": 1. Andante con moto - Allegro un poco agitato - Assai animato - Andante come prima
  2. Symphony No. 3 in A minor, Op. 56 - "Scottish": 2. Vivace non troppo
  3. Symphony No. 3 in A minor, Op. 56 - "Scottish": 3. Adagio
  4. Symphony No. 3 in A minor, Op. 56 - "Scottish": 4. Allegro vivacissimo - Allegro maestoso assai
  5. A Midsummer Night's Dream, overture, Op. 21
  6. A Midsummer Night's Dream, incidental music, Op. 61: 1. Scherzo
  7. A Midsummer Night's Dream, incidental music, Op. 61: 3. "You spotted snakes"
  8. A Midsummer Night's Dream, incidental music, Op. 61: 5. Intermezzo
  9. A Midsummer Night's Dream, incidental music, Op. 61: 7. Notturno
  10. A Midsummer Night's Dream, incidental music, Op. 61: 9. Wedding March
  11. A Midsummer Night's Dream, incidental music, Op. 61: 11. Dance of the Clowns
  12. A Midsummer Night's Dream, incidental music, Op. 61: 12. Finale. "Though this house give glimm'ring light"

Jennifer Vyvyan, soprano (7, 12)
Marion Lowe, soprano (7)
Female Chorus of the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden (7, 12)
London Symphony Orchestra
Peter Maag, conductor

Date: 1957 (5-12), 1960 (1-4)
Label: Decca




Peter Maag conducts a delightfully fresh “Scottish” Symphony, keeping tempos moderately brisk, textures lean, and phrasing intuitive–that is, everything flows easily and logically. The first movement’s slow introduction is not weighted down with profundity but instead sets the stage for the terse, energetic allegro to follow. Maag’s scherzo is not as fast as Abbado’s (also on Decca), but is still vibrant and allows much inner detail to register. The Adagio can be (and often is) the soggy center of this symphony, but Maag’s beauty-in-motion conducting prevents any static dullness from setting in, letting the music emerge as the moving piece it is. Maag begins the finale attacca, quickly dispelling the adagio’s mood with flashes of fire from the violins. The London Symphony Orchestra’s brass and strings really enliven the confrontations near the movement’s end, before the seemingly tacked-on coda (Mendelssohn could have left well enough alone with the quiet ending) which, thanks to thrilling horn playing, sounds less tiresome than usual.

The well-filled (79 minutes) disc includes Maag’s selections of incidental music from Mendelssohn’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. This includes the usual Overture, Scherzo, Nocturne, and Wedding March, as well as four additional selections, some with female chorus and soprano soloists (Jennifer Vyvyan and Marion Lowe) who help create the fairytale atmosphere with vivid, pointed, and colorful singing. This collection allows us to probe deep into Mendelssohn’s work without getting bogged down in the repetitions and minutiae of the complete version. The London Symphony again fulfills Maag’s vision, playing with sparkle and polish. Decca’s 1960 recording of the symphony is full and clear with plenty of depth; the 1957 sound for Midsummer is dynamically limited by comparison.

-- Victor Carr Jr.ClassicsToday

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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.


Peter Maag (10 May 1919 – 16 April 2001) was a Swiss conductor and pianist. He studied piano with Czesław Marek and Alfred Cortot, and conducting with Ernest Ansermet, Wilhelm Furtwängler and Franz von Hoesslin He served as an assistant to Wilhelm Furtwängler and Ernest Ansermet before began recording for Decca in 1950. Maag's early stereophonic sound recordings for Decca were well received, and many have remained in the catalogs for decades. Other labels he recorded for include Arts, Conifer, Deutsche Grammophon, Naxos Records, Nuova Era, RCA Red Seal Records, and Vox Records.


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