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Joachim MENDELSON (1892-1943)
Symphony No. 2 (1939) [20:50]
Quintet for oboe, violin, viola, cello and piano (1939) [16:24]
Violin Sonata (1937) [13:52]
Chamber Symphony (1938) [15:50]
Tatjana Blome (piano); Claudio Corbach (cello); Ignacy Miecznikowski (viola); Ulrike Petersen (violin); Frédéric Tardy (oboe)
Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra/Jürgen Bruns
rec. 2010-11, Warsaw and Berlin. Radio Berlin Brandenburg and Polish Radio.
EDA 40 [67:16]

Joachim Mendelson was born in Warsaw and succumbed to the magnet that was Paris in the 1920s. There he immersed himself in expatriate Polish circles within which Szymanowski and Rubinstein were prominent alongside Koussevitzky, Ravel and Boulanger. He returned to Warsaw and a professorship at the capital's conservatory in the 1930s. Incarcerated within the Warsaw ghetto he was murdered by the Nazis during the 1940s. These four works (of only five that appear to have survived) here receive their first recordings. Judging by their dates they appear to have been written after his return to Warsaw.

His lively and lucid Second Symphony is in three movements, as are all the works on this disc. It is a sprightly and cleanly orchestrated work finding a more vulnerable heart in the middle movement. The flanking movements recall the music of Honegger and Markevitch with a tendency to frilly yet often unyielding ideas - somewhat neo-classical but not desiccated. The Quintet's outer movements are bushy-tailed, devil-may-care with more than a flavour of Kurt Weill. By contrast there's a most touching central movement. The earliest work is the Violin Sonata which speaks of a composer who gives free rein to lyrical-romantic impulses. This sound coincides with the much earlier violin sonatas by Rootham and Ireland. Mendelson is not short of charm. That said, he does tighten and curve the language in the style taken for the outer movements of the symphony and quintet. Running counter to the title, the Chamber Symphony is by no means a work of reserved intimacy. It sounds to have more in common with the Symphony No. 2. There's much work for surging strings, confidently striding brass, the tenderly melodic, the mercurially balletic - just as in the first movement of the Symphony - and the smilingly subtle.

This CD forms part of EDA's six-volume series paying homage to Polish composers who faced exile and worse. Mendelson’s String Quartet - written for the Roth Quartet - was issued on EDA 35 in a recording by the Silesian String Quartet.

The notes in English and Polish by Frank Harders-Wuthenow are well reproduced.

It's good that the pretty much unknown Mendelson is so well advocated here by skilled and attentive performers, good audio and sensitive annotation. It's perhaps too much to hope that other scores will be found but if they do then, on this showing, it will be no hardship to hear them.

Rob Barnett



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