One of the most grown-up review sites around

54,416 reviews
and more.. and still writing ...

Search MusicWeb Here



International mailing

Founder: Len Mullenger                                    Editor in Chief:John Quinn             


Some items
to consider


paid for

Acte Prealable Polish recordings

Forgotten Recordings
Forgotten Recordings
All Forgotten Records Reviews

Troubadisc Weinberg- TROCD01450

100th birthday of Mieczyslaw Weinberg on December 8, 2019.
Renate Eggbrecht has recorded all 3 violin Sonatas
All Troubadisc reviews

FOGHORN Classics

Brahms String Quartets

All Foghorn Reviews

All HDTT reviews

Clarissa Bevilacqua plays
Augusta Read Thomas

all Nimbus reviews

Brahms Dvorak
Brahms 2 Dvorak 7
all tudor reviews



Follow us on Twitter

Subscribe to our free weekly review listing

Sample: See what you will get

Editorial Board
MusicWeb International
Founding Editor
Rob Barnett
Editor in Chief
John Quinn
Contributing Editor
Ralph Moore
   David Barker
Jonathan Woolf
MusicWeb Founder
   Len Mullenger


Discs for review may be sent to:
Jonathan Woolf
76 Lushes Road
Essex IG10 3QB
United Kingdom


CD: Crotchet AmazonUK AmazonUS

George Frideric HANDEL (1685-1759)/Felix MENDELSSOHN (1809-1847)
Israel in Ägypten (1739, 1833) [83.00]
Monika Frimmer (soprano); Veronika Winter (soprano); Heike Grozinger (alto); Hans Jorg Mammel (tenor); Ekkehard Abele (bass); Gregor Finke (bass)
Rheinische Kantorei; Das Kleine Konzert/Herman Max
rec. Live, 26 September 2001, Basilika Knechtsteden
CPO 777 222-2 [43.44 + 39.16] 
Experience Classicsonline

I have to admit that though I find this recording fascinating, it is purely for musicological and music history reasons rather than for the performance itself. Herman Max and Das Kleine Konzert present a reconstruction of Mendelssohn's performance of Handel's Israel in Ägypten at the Rhine Music Music Festival on 26 May 1833.

Mendelssohn had quite a history with Israel in Egypt. He performed it in October 1833 in Düsseldorf, in Leipzig in 1836 and again at the Lower Rhine Music Festival in 1842, finally in Berlin in 1844. In 1845 his edition of the work was published as part of a planned complete Handel edition by the London Handel Society.

The work had been premiered in Germany in Berlin in 1831 by the Sing-Akademie under Carl Friedrich Zelter, a group with which Mendelssohn had close associations. For their performance, the Rhine Music Festival committee had managed to get hold of a 1792 score of the work which was relatively accurate. They also managed to get a set of parts from Berlin; this was moderately essential as the Berlin performance had been orchestrated by J.O.H. Schaum. Mendelssohn would use this orchestration for his performance in 1833 because the venue had no organ.

Generally Mendelssohn seems to have been ahead of his time when it came to fidelity to the score. For later performances of the oratorio he used an organ when it was available and dropped the extra instruments. For a performance of Solomon with the Rhine Music Festival he even had an organ transported to the venue. For the recitatives, Mendelssohn used two cellos and a double-bass. The original parts are divided into solo and ripieno, essential, you imagine, as Mendelssohn was conducting an ensemble of some 275 singers and 134 players in the orchestra.

Mendelssohn was quite keen on returning to the authentic score and used visits to London to look for original sources of Handel's oratorio. His critical examination of available historical resources marks him out from his contemporaries. The London conductor George Smart showed Mendelssohn a libretto for a performance which was done during Handel's time - this included numbers not in some scores. Also Smart was supposed to have the genuine tempi from his father, conveyed in the form of timings for the movements. These may be reflected in Mendelssohn's metronome markings, but bearing in mind the size of his forces we must doubt whether they relate to Handel's speeds and may relate better to the larger size Handel centenary commemoration performances.

Mendelssohn added a number of pieces which he found in London, the most interesting of which for us are the recitatives. These were thought to be Handel's own but probably date from the 1760s when performances were directed by J.C. Smith. Nevertheless they make an interesting addition to the work and it would be well worth other performance groups investigating them.

All this fidelity to the score was partially scuppered by the nature of the festival itself. A large number of singers came together for a relatively short time to rehearse the work; as a result there were cuts and shortenings. So that the choruses were not performed complete.

Evidently it had been hoped to make this recording with something approximating the forces used by Mendelssohn, but this did not prove feasible. So instead Hermann Max conducts a chorus of 29 and an orchestra of 32 (61 musicians to Mendelssohn's 419).

And what of the performance? Well Max's tempi are moderate rather than fast, but the general feel is crisp and incisive. The proceedings open with an overture which Mendelssohn had provided, though it was not newly written. The chorus are similarly lively and quite light-textured. Both chorus and orchestra have moments of instability and uncertainty, leading me to wonder whether a slightly longer recording period might have been favoured. Whilst their performance has its points and is certainly more than adequate, there are other more preferable recordings of the work.

When it comes to the soloists, there is a degree of serious disappointment. We don't get the bass duet 'The Lord is a Man of War' and the soprano duet seems to test both the sopranos when it comes to the upper range. There are similar problems in the soprano solos - the booklet does not say which soloist sings which soprano solo. Heike Grotzinger has a pleasantly fruity alto and Hans Jorg Mammel an attractive lyric tenor. Without their duet, basses Ekkehard Abele and Gregor Finke are woefully underused, though all singers get the extra recitatives.

The CD booklet contains a long and informative essay giving the full background to the 1833 performance and the edition used by this recording with a libretto with translations. The disc is relatively poor value at 83 minutes spread over 2 CDs and I did wonder whether some way of fitting it onto 1 CD could not have been found.

As a performance of Handel's Israel in Egypt (or Israel in Ägypten) this is disappointing. But as a window on early Handel performance practice, it is utterly fascinating.

Robert Hugill



Advertising on

Donate and keep us afloat


New Releases

Naxos Classical
All Naxos reviews

Chandos recordings
All Chandos reviews

Hyperion recordings
All Hyperion reviews

Foghorn recordings
All Foghorn reviews

Troubadisc recordings
All Troubadisc reviews

all cpo reviews

Divine Art recordings
Click to see New Releases
Get 10% off using code musicweb10
All Divine Art reviews

All APR reviews

Lyrita recordings
All Lyrita Reviews


Wyastone New Releases
Obtain 10% discount

Recordings of the Month

November 2022
Bach Orchestral Suites

del Cinque
Del Cinque Cello sonatas

Fujita Mozart
Mao Fujita Mozart

Stanczyk Acousmatic Music


October 2022

Berg Violin Concerto
Violin Concerto Elmes

DEbussy Jeux
Debussy Jeux

Romantic pioano masters
Romantic Piano Masters

The future is female - Vol 2
Volume 2 - The Dance

impromptu harp music
Complete Harp Impromptus




Making a Donation to MusicWeb

Writing CD reviews for MWI

About MWI
Who we are, where we have come from and how we do it.

Site Map

How to find a review

How to find articles on MusicWeb
Listed in date order

Review Indexes
   By Label
      Select a label and all reviews are listed in Catalogue order
   By Masterwork
            Links from composer names (eg Sibelius) are to resource pages with links to the review indexes for the individual works as well as other resources.

Themed Review pages

Jazz reviews


      Composer surveys
      Unique to MusicWeb -
a comprehensive listing of all LP and CD recordings of given works
Prepared by Michael Herman

The Collector’s Guide to Gramophone Company Record Labels 1898 - 1925
Howard Friedman

Book Reviews

Complete Books
We have a number of out of print complete books on-line

With Composers, Conductors, Singers, Instumentalists and others
Includes those on the Seen and Heard site


Nostalgia CD reviews

Records Of The Year
Each reviewer is given the opportunity to select the best of the releases

Monthly Best Buys
Recordings of the Month and Bargains of the Month

Arthur Butterworth Writes

An occasional column

Phil Scowcroft's Garlands
British Light Music articles

Classical blogs
A listing of Classical Music Blogs external to MusicWeb International

Reviewers Logs
What they have been listening to for pleasure



Bulletin Board

Give your opinions or seek answers

Pat and present

Helpers invited!

How Did I Miss That?

Currently suspended but there are a lot there with sound clips

Composer Resources

British Composers

British Light Music Composers

Other composers

Film Music (Archive)
Film Music on the Web (Closed in December 2006)

Programme Notes
For concert organizers

External sites
British Music Society
The BBC Proms
Orchestra Sites
Recording Companies & Retailers
Online Music
Agents & Marketing
Other links
Web News sites etc

A pot-pourri of articles

MW Listening Room
MW Office

Advice to Windows Vista users  
Site History  
What they say about us
What we say about us!
Where to get help on the Internet
CD orders By Special Request
Graphics archive
Currency Converter
Web Ring
Translation Service

Rules for potential reviewers :-)
Do Not Go Here!
April Fools

Return to Review Index

Untitled Document

Reviews from previous months
Join the mailing list and receive a hyperlinked weekly update on the discs reviewed. details
We welcome feedback on our reviews. Please use the Bulletin Board
Please paste in the first line of your comments the URL of the review to which you refer.