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Felix MENDELSSOHN (1809-1847)
Complete works for piano and orchestra
Concerto for Piano and Orchestra (No. 1) in G minor, Op. 25 (1832) [18:25]
Serenade and Allegro giocoso in B minor, Op. 43 (1838) [12:32]
Concerto for Piano and Orchestra (No. 2) in D minor, Op. 40 (1837) [21:57]
Rondo Brilliant in E flat major, Op. 29 (1834) [10:26]
Capriccio Brilliant in B minor, Op. 22 (1826) [10:55]
Concerto for Piano and String Orchestra in A minor (1822) [34:44]
Concerto for Piano and Orchestra (No. 3) in E minor (1844) [22:45]
Concerto for 2 Pianos and Orchestra in A flat major (1822/24) [41:24]
Concerto for 2 Pianos and Orchestra in E major (1822/24) [32:19]
Concerto for Violin, Piano and Orchestra in D minor (1823) [38:16]
Oleg Marshev (piano)
Anne Mette Stæhr (piano 2)
South Denmark Philharmonic/David Porcelijn
rec. Alsion, Sonderborg, Denmark, 8-14 August 2011, 7-12, 14-18 May 2012. DDD
DANACORD DACOCD 734-736 [4 CDs: 74:15 + 57:29 + 73:43 + 38:16]

Clever of Danacord to settle on such a project. Its spirit of endeavour reminds me of Andrei Hoteev’s 1999 Koch Schwann set of the Tchaikovsky works for piano and orchestra (CD 34690-2) and Lev Vinocour’s similarly wide-ranging three CD set of the Schumann works for piano and orchestra (RCA Red Seal 88697 65877 2). All have that ambitious all-inclusive air.
 
Ten works for piano and orchestra by Mendelssohn. I would hardly have credited it yet here they are. Some have been realised by others and the Piano Concerto No 3 has been made into a performing entity by Marcello Bufalini.
 
Only the works on CD1 are at all familiar to me. I except the Serenade and Allegro Giocoso. If you had asked me about Mendelssohn and this genre before this set arrived I would have recalled recordings of the first two piano concertos and the Capriccio by Murray Perahia, Joseph Kalichstein and of one or more of the first two concertos by that tortured genius John Ogdon - did you see the recent BBC4 film about him?
 
Marshev and Danacord are inseparable. The Baku-born pianist has recorded prodigious amounts of romantic repertoire acclaimed and disdained for the Danish label. This includes the complete piano concertos of Shostakovich, Rachmaninov and Prokofiev. There is so much more.
 
Two of the four discs here are pretty full. The others are more loosely packed. Given the exigencies of the Mendelssohn catalogue it’s difficult to see how they could have done otherwise unless they added piano solos but that would have been a departure from the ‘concertante’ plan.
 
Marshev is not alone in the spotlight. He is joined by pianist Anne Mette Staehr on CD3 for the concertos for two pianos. I hope to have the opportunity to hear Ms Stæhr's recording of the complete piano works of Sofia Gubaidulina. The violinist Rumen Lukanov appears for CD4. This has only the Concerto in D minor for piano and violin. The latter is referred to as a ‘bonus’; it’s certainly welcome.
 
On CD1 Marshev instantly announces his firm command of Mendelssohn’s showily engaging idiom. Mendelssohn seems the natural predecessor to writers of other delightful lighter concertos including those written years later by Saint-Saens and Palmgren. The finale of the Second Concerto hints at the quick music in the Italian Symphony. The romantically energetic tendency at play in this music is nicely offset by curvaceously gracious Mozartean writing in the central movements of the two numbered concertos. The Rondo and the Capriccio serve up more of the same and there's no stinting on the delights already experienced in the flanking movements of the concertos. The Capriccio Brilliant starts with a gentle serenading introduction but soon finds its dapper feet. The Serenade and Allegro Giocoso is a delightful addition to the repertoire of bipartite pieces to set beside the two Schumann examples. It ends in liquid and golden joyous style.
 
CD 2 starts with the unnumbered 1822 A minor concerto. This is an extended work running to 35 minutes across three movements. It is fluent with hints of what is to come and otherwise a Mozartean manner. Colin Anderson’s lucid and useful liner-notes suggest Weber. The middle Adagio is very affecting.
 
The Piano Concerto No 3 from 1844 was started in the decade after the first two numbered concertos. The completion from the fragments left behind is nicely done. While what we hear can only be speculative it is well worth getting to know. Again late Mozart and early Beethoven haunt its pages and do so to agreeable effect.
 
CD 3 has the pair of two piano concertos - contemporary works from 1822-24. These are charmingly loquacious and full of graceful writing. There’s also a cheeringly infectious warmth and the odd dash of grandeur. The second has a Rossinian effervescence which in its big central Adagio occupies the same soulful territory as the central movement of Beethoven's Emperor. Marshev takes primo in the A flat major and swaps roles with Anne Mette Stæhr for the E major.
 
The final CD is of a concerto - all 38 minutes of it - that has solo roles for piano and violin. The violin is slightly recessed by comparison with the violin but not excessively. There's another fine romantic Adagio to set beside the ingratiating display of the outer movements. The works of the 1820s on the last three CDs make good company and good companions in much the same way as the many string symphonies by this composer but enhanced by the solo writing. In the 1823 work there are moments which might have escaped from the famous E Minor Violin Concerto.
 
You will not want to listen to all of these in one session. I say this despite Danacord’s typically nice sound. However, apportioned across a couple of evenings you will find much to enjoy as you discover works that in the majority of cases you may not have heard before.
 
The South Denmark Philharmonic under CPO stalwart David Porcelijn take none of the shine off these barely known works.
 
I should just add that Danacord have also issued Marshev’s Schumann concertante works on DACOCD 688. If you enjoy the Schumann but have not yet tried Mendelssohn’s work in the same genre then this set removes any excuse to explore. Music and performances meet to offer cheerful brilliant company.
 
The other related Danacord/Marshev set issued at the same time is of the complete works of Chopin for piano and orchestra. This has been reviewed here by John France. No surprises there and already up against distinguished and long entrenched competition from Arrau, Argerich and Weissenberg. The Mendelssohn set is unique and fascinating with it.
 
Rob Barnett
 



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