has unearthed more long-buried treasure
with this generous reissue.
Mendelssohn is best
known nowadays for his third and fourth
symphonies, his Hebrides Overture
and his incidental music to Shakespeare's
A Midsummer Night's Dream. For
those who want to get to know him better,
it is worth delving into his earlier
works. Mendelssohn was, of course, one
of musicís most famous child prodigies.
The works of his teenage years, including
those collected on this disc, are far
superior to anything Mozart wrote at
the same age. This music is unfailingly
tuneful, tightly constructed and, more
It is easy to forget
that the three string symphonies, written
by the composer in his fourteenth year,
were actually composition exercises
completed as part of his musical education.
The ninth string symphony is in the
traditional four movements. It strikes
a serious tone immediately with the
grave introduction to its first movement,
which soon reverts to a bright Mozartian
allegro. The solo violin writing in
the slow movement is lovely and the
short Beethovenian scherzo is played
here with élan. It is interesting
to note that the fresh and breezy final
movement is in sonata form, while the
first movement is not. There is more
than a little Haydnesque humour in this
last movement, with Mendelssohn setting
cheeky traps for his listenerís expectations.
The tenth string symphony
exists as a single opening movement,
time having stripped the others away.
As with the opening movement of the
ninth, it features a sombre introduction,
that then shakes off the gloom and reveals
itself as a sparkling allegro. This
string symphony seems to be the one
most in tune with the composerís own
times, tinged with Schubert, rather
than looking back to earlier models.
The twelfth string
symphony is very much focused on earlier
music, moving back in time from the
Classical to the Baroque. It opens with
a grand overture in French style, which
features a spicy chromatic fugue, moves
through a gentle andante and finishes
with a racy finale which recalls Mozartís
The disc closes with
the 13 year old Mendelssohnís concerto
for piano and strings. Beethovenís influence
is strongly felt in Mendelssohnís writing
for piano, and Mozartís in the accompaniment.
John Ogdon is a surprisingly sensitive
soloist. He manages to hold his thunder
and allow his pianism to sparkle instead.
Despite the minor key, this music smiles.
The helter-skelter at the end of the
third movementís finale points to the
music of romantic composers yet to come.
The gorgeous, languid central adagio
recalls the mood of the slow movements
of Beethovenís third and fifth concertos.
It is easily my favourite movement of
this concerto, and my favourite movement
on this disc.
It almost goes without
saying that this repertoire suits Marriner
and co down to the ground. If you have
become accustomed to hearing your Mozart,
Haydn and Beethoven played by period
ensembles, or at least in period style,
you may take a little while to adjust
to the Academyís fuller string tone
and generous vibrato. When you do, though,
you will be charmed by their enthusiasm
and carried along at Marrinerís well-chosen
tempi. The recording shows its age only
slightly, with more body to the sound
in the concerto than in the brightly
lit string symphonies, which were recorded
four years earlier. Stephen Schaferís
liner notes are superb.
If you are looking
to experience more of the young Mendelssohn,
then this is the disc for you.