Aureole etc.

Golden Age singers

Nimbus on-line

Faure songs
Charlotte de Rothschild (soprano);

  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

Felix MENDELSSOHN (1809-1847)
Symphony No. 3 in A minor Op, 56 (‘Scottish’) (1842) [42.03]
Robert SCHUMANN (1810-1856)

Cello Concerto in A minor Op. 129 (1850) [23.30]
Jürnjakob Timm (cello)
Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra/Kurt Masur
Recorded 1962/1985 on VEB Deutsche Schallplatten


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The Victorians’ love affair with all things Scottish was reflected in the arts and personified by Queen Victoria herself. Scotland’s landscape, legends and music were celebrated not only in England, but also in Continental Europe. Mendelssohn’s best-known works in the genre, the Third Symphony and Hebrides Overture, are fine examples of this Romantic attachment.

Masur’s custody of the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra has produced many admired recordings, including works rarely heard in Germany during the Nazi regime, such as the Mendelssohn symphonies. It was therefore with a keen sense of anticipation that I listened to this CD of his 1962 performance of No. 3. Unfortunately the word that best describes it is ‘turgid’. Leisurely tempi and a cursory approach to the composer’s brilliant scene-painting add up to a lack-lustre interpretation that sent me back to Solti’s sparkling reading with the LSO to restore my belief that the Scottish is one of Mendelssohn’s most attractive scores. It is not merely the current fashion for ‘historically informed’ performance techniques, with their crisper tactus and lighter textures, that makes for unfavourable comparisons: here the whole work sags; the last movement (marked Allegro vivacissimo) is notably lacking in liveliness. The over-upholstered orchestral sound does not help, and Masur is apparently convinced that a solid, uninvolved approach is just what’s required for this predominantly sunny work; but not by me.

The Schumann Cello Concerto recorded in 1985 fares better, thanks to the sensitive playing of Jürnjakob Timm whose expressive yet commanding presence in the foreground brings colour to Masur’s somewhat deadpan interpretation. The violin and cello concertos, both late works when the composer was suffering his final illness, have never figured among Schumann’s most admired symphonic works. No cellist was found in his lifetime who would play them, and he never lived to hear a performance.

Together with its unbalanced acoustic and stilted orchestral playing I do not consider this disc a bargain at any price.

Roy Brewer

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