Symphony No. 2 Lobgesang (1840) [68:41]
Ruth Ziesak (soprano); Mojca Erdmann (soprano); Christian Elsner (tenor)
MDR Radio Choir/Howard Arman
MDR Symphony Orchestra/Jun Märkl
rec. MDR-Studio am Augustusplatz, Leipzig, Germany, 26-29 August 2008. DDD
NAXOS 8.572294 [68:41]

We are used to encountering this conductor in Debussy (Naxos 8.570775, 8.570759, 8.570993, 8.572296 and 8.572297), Ravel (8.570992) and Messiaen (8.572174). However he does have some Mendelssohn in his young discography. He recorded Elias (Elijah) also with Ruth Ziesak and Leipzig MDR forces on Naxos 8.572228-29. This was received fairly well by John Sheppard and less so by Gavin Dixon.

This Lobgesang is fervent and fiery. The symphonies 3 and 4 have rather unfairly put numbers 1, 2 and 5 in the shade. In fact the first of Lobgesang’s thirteen - here separately tracked - movements pre-empts the spirited orchestral writing of the Scotch and the Italian. The second movement, not for the last time, has a distinct Schumann inflection. The Adagio religioso (III) is warm and almost Tchaikovskian in Märkl’s hands. These three initial movements are purely orchestral. The choir appear for the first time in IV and makes a stirring sound, showing the grand, glowing and gilded tradition from which Franz Schmidt’s Das Buch Mit Siebel Siegeln arose. Listen to their radiantly plush contribution at the start of the Chorale – Nun danket alle Gott (tr. 11). The singing of choir and soloists is smoothly toned and borne high on powerful lungs and artistically well-judged vocal craft. Ziesak is a potent dramatic soprano. Christian Elsner is a tenor partly founded on the Ian Partridge model yet with more intense sap. He has the heroic apparatus to square up to the demands of Johannes in the Schmidt oratorio mentioned earlier. The other two singers are never less than good.

The German texts and English translations are in the booklet, and may also be found at www.naxos.com/libretti/572294.htm

This is Mendelssohn in glorious vocal and orchestral form. Do not let the low price point fool you into assuming anything here is mediocre; quite the contrary. This is stirringly and fervently done; a superbly crafted performance in a satisfyingly engineered recording.

Rob Barnett

Mendelssohn stirringly and fervently done. Superbly crafted performance.