Sonata for Viola and Piano in C minor (1823/24) [25:56]
Sonata for Clarinet and Piano in E flat major (1824) [21:22]
Trio for Violin, Viola and Piano in C minor (1820) [14:51]
Ana Chumachenco (violin); Hariolf Schlichtig (viola); Eduard Brunner (clarinet); Adrian Oetiker (piano)
rec. 1-2 October 2008, 1-6, 11 January 2009, Hochschule fur Musik und Theater München, Grosser Saal. DDD
TUDOR 7154 [62:26]

This is an unusual assemblage of Mendelssohn chamber music most beautifully performed and recorded. It should command attention among the composer’s growing following as the less frequented corners of his catalogue are pioneered.

It is not that Mendelssohn has ever lacked for appreciation – except in Germany during the Nazi era. However until the last few decades interest has centred on his mature symphonies (3 and 4 anyway), Midsummer Night’s Dream music, Octet, Hebrides overture and the two imposing oratorios: Elijah and St Paul.

A Viola Sonata is perhaps unexpected from the 1820s and even more so from this composer. It is in fact a thing of quicksilver dramatic contrast and early romantic inspiration. Its demeanour is completely mature, balanced, accomplished and inspired. Grace and drama meet in these sometimes tempestuous pages. The Clarinet Sonata is from about the same time. It is typically mellifluous, engaging, gracious and in the finale reflects a bubbling Weberian manner with exciting and not at all deferential blandishments from the piano. Eduard Brunner is the equal of every challenging gauntlet thrown down by Mendelssohn. The key action of the clarinet can be heard but this is a small price to pay for such winning playing. The four movement Piano Trio of 1820 has a placidly Mozartean Allegro followed by a relentless faery Scherzo. The third movement is an Adagio in the manner of a sedate meditation. Finally comes a busy Allegro which suggests that Beethoven’s fate motif had taken a hold on the young composer.

The helpful contextual notes are by Gavin Plumley.

Rob Barnett

This is an unusual and rewarding assemblage of Mendelssohn chamber music most beautifully performed and recorded.