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Felix MENDELSSOHN (1809–1847)
Symphony No. 4 in A, Op, 90 (1833) [22:51]
Symphony No. 5 in D minor Op.107 Reformation (1832) [24:18]
Piano Concerto in G minor Op.25 (1831) [17:11]
Ania Dorfmann (piano)
LSO/Walter Goehr,
Hallé Orchestra/Hamilton Harty,
L’Orchestre de la Société du Conservatoire de Paris/Charles Munch
rec. Abbey Road, Studio No.1 London, 1938 (4); Central Hall, Westminster, 1931 (5); 1947. ADD
DUTTON CDBP9781 [64:25]


Experience Classicsonline

Here’s a useful Mendelssohnian triptych for you. Take Hamilton Harty’s 1931 recording of the Fourth Symphony, add as a concerto centre-piece a sparkling traversal of the G minor Concerto recorded in 1938 and finish with a very personable and structurally acute Parisian Fifth Symphony and you have a finely constructed programme. It’s as well to point out to those many unfortunate souls who suffer from pre-digital ear fatigue, that the most modern of the recordings dates from 1947; Charles Munch’s recording of the Reformation.

The rest of us can make the acquaintance of Harty’s Fourth because in an ideal world everything that this perceptive conductor recorded should be available commercially. This recording was made in Central Hall, Westminster, a pretty useful though obviously not purpose-built venue. It’s a lithe, typically propulsive and aerated performance, full of characteristic Harty rubati, subtly deployed. He brings a profound sense of line nevertheless to the slow movement, unravelling its lyric curvature with well-balanced string choirs and the typical Hallé complement of portamento. The strings are especially lissom in the scherzo, something of a high point in the reading. But in any case this is a life enhancing, vibrant and highly effective recording. If you acquired the Hallé’s own restoration on Hallé Tradition CD HLT8002 - where it was coupled with Sammons’ recording of the Bruch G minor - you’ll know what a total dog of a transfer you have on your shelves. The Sammons is awful as well and not properly pitched either. No contest between that and this Dutton though as ever some will welcome the treble cut more than I do.

Odessa-born Ania Dorfmann is probably best known on disc for her recording with Toscanini of the First Beethoven concerto though she did in fact record quite a few sides in London for Columbia. Pearl has scooped up those 1931-38 discs, including this Mendelssohn Concerto, which is much noisier than this Dutton though has a bit more presence. She recorded a lot of rather fancy repertoire – Tausig, von Sauer, and Grünfeld as well as Debussy and Chopin. She brings a sense of stylish , stylistically apt lightness to the Mendelssohn. She’s not too heavy but neither is she cavalier rhythmically. She finds due repose in the Andante and a simplicity, a straightforwardness that marks this as a most accomplished reading. She has something of Moura Lympany’s sense of dash as well.

Charles Munch can be relied upon to deliver a strong Reformation. That he certainly does in its opening movement and he finds a Gallic spruceness and suppleness in the scherzo. The slow movement is strongly textured and anything but indifferent. Whereas the finale is confident with striding, tangy French winds to the fore, an approach that succeeds in mitigating any structural weaknesses that might otherwise be revealed.

So - enjoyable historical reclamations. None is new to the restorer’s art obviously but these generally sympathetic transfers will do nicely. There are no notes.

Jonathan Woolf


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