Fey is a fabulous exponent of the symphonies of Haydn and
Beethoven, as a number of my fellow reviewers have attested
(see below). While the Haydn discs – after a brief hiatus – are
once again emerging in a steady stream, the Beethoven cycle
seems to have been shelved in favour of a new Mendelssohn
series, of which this disc is the second.
features that make Fey's Haydn and Beethoven so successful
are all here: the clipped, incisive articulation, the fleet
tempi, the stylish phrasing, the committed playing of the
Heidelberger Sinfoniker and above all the risk-taking from
the podium. That risk-taking is a key ingredient in the success
of Fey’s Haydn and Beethoven, but his more daring choices
sometimes seem to offend Mendelssohn’s more delicate muse.
As in their other recordings, the Heidelbergers play within
the new tradition of period performance practice, using period
brass, hard sticks for the timpani and modern winds and strings.
two string symphonies included here are the remarkably assured
works of a child prodigy. Fey points up the contrasts in
the first movement of No.7, with passages of limpid phrasing
punctuating a punchy, spirited allegro and he and the Heidelbergers
romp through the Haydnesque finale. The inner movements also
come across well. The andante has an understated beauty and
a little mystery in the central episode, and the menuetto
is well pointed.
is almost as good, though an odd tempo choice
flaws an otherwise fine performance. The grave
of the 12th
string symphony is modelled on the
grand French overture of the Baroque, and while Fey and his
band convey the grandiose side of this music, the promised
allegro never materialises. The second movement, taken at
a relaxed tempo, offers compensation in its disarming sweetness.
The Mozartian finale is best of all, the Heidelberger Sinfoniker
revelling in the fugal play, Fey directing with thrust but
at a sensible tempo.
performance of the Italian Symphony
, though tremendously
exciting and genuinely explosive in the finale, fails to
convince on repeated hearing. The orchestra plays well and
the brass are outstanding – the whooping of the natural horns
is a joy to hear. The problem is Fey’s direction.
outer movements have great forward momentum and stylish phrasing,
but these qualities are undermined by Fey’s policy of pushing
the tempo at each fortissimo marking in the score. This habit
compromises the unanimity of ensemble at these junctures
and, in the first movement in particular, drains away some
of the music’s dramatic tension. The second movement andante
is fleet. What it gains in flow it loses in tenderness. The
third movement comes across fairly well, with carefully graded
dynamics. A little more warmth from the strings – who of
course eschew vibrato – is all that is missing.
recorded sound is immediate and catches Mendelssohn’s antiphonal
violin writing well. Eckhard van den Hoogen’s booklet notes
are informative once you get past the oddities of his effusive
is a fine conductor and his most recent Haydn discs have
been among the best discs issued this year. Would that I
could say the same about his Mendelssohn.
Fey recordings reviewed on MusicWeb