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Cat. No. CHAN 10224(3) X Price: £11.2 No. of discs: 3
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CHAN 10224 - Mendelssohn: Symphonies
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Available From: 09 August 2004
Mendelssohn was only fifteen when he composed the C minor Symphony. It is an astonishing achievement and if there are moments suggestive of familiar passages from Mozart, Haydn, Beethoven and Weber, it is only to be expected, for the young composer used these as models. However, the predominant impression is one of considerable originality and mastery.

Some five years elapsed before Mendelssohn continued his symphonic work. His noble Reformation Symphony was composed in response to celebrations planned in remembrance of the Reformation. Despite the quality of the craftsmanship, the work was performed only once in the composer’s lifetime. Mendelssohn’s own rejection of the work may have been due in part to a growing aversion to the idea of the programmatic symphony.

1840 was the year chosen in Germany to commemorate Gutenberg’s invention of printing from movable type. Mendelssohn originally planned a short oratorio or largescale psalm setting but came up with a structure in which three orchestral movements precede a long cantata-like finale. Symphony No. 2 is a work for which the composer had a special affection.

Mendelssohn was full of romantic ideas of Scotland before he ever saw it, and had already had it in mind to compose a ‘Scottish’ symphony before his first visit in 1829. In Edinburgh contemplation of the ruins of the chapel of Holyrood Palace immediately resulted in a sketch of the work’s opening theme, but the work was not completed until 1842. Its atmosphere is prevailingly melancholic and dark, in complete contrast to the later ‘Italian’ Symphony, which opens with a burst of vivacious energy, coupled with a scoring that emphasises transparency and lightness of texture. Mendelssohn’s mastery and freshness in this symphony is so abundant that it remains a great puzzle as to why he himself considered it unworthy of performance.

The Philharmonia was in top form when these recordings were made, and the players dutifully follow their leader, Walter Weller.

The great merit of Wellers Chandos version is the warmth and weight of the recorded sound, with a large chorus set against full-bodied, satisfyingly string-based orchestral sound.
The Penguin Guide

One thing is certain. Not only are these consistently alive and spontaneous-sounding performances, but they are easily the best in the current catalogue.


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