Felix MENDELSSOHN BARTHOLDY (1809-1847) Ruy Blas Overture [8.20] The Fair Melusine Overture [10.59] The Hebrides Overture [10.16] The First Walpurgis Night [34.49]
Birgit Remmert (alto), Jorg Durmuller (tenor), Ruben Drole (baritone), Reinhard Mayr (bass)
Zurcher Sing-Akademie, Musikkollegium Winterhur/Douglas Boyd
rec. Stadthaus Winterthur, September 2015 MUSIKPRODUKTION DABRINGHAUS UND GRIMM 9011949-6 SACD [64.26]
In a lovely programme of works by Mendelssohn, this disc from MDG presents three overtures followed by The First Walpurgis Night. It opens with the overture from Ruy Blas, and one is immediately impressed by the wind and brass sections of the Musikkollegium Winterhur, and in particular by their excellent intonation in the difficult opening chords of the work – it is hard to find recordings with intonation this secure. The strings are perhaps less outstanding, but overall, the orchestra, under conductor Douglas Boyd, produces quite a light, clean sound – which, of course, suits works by Mendelssohn very well indeed.
The second overture, The Fair Melusine, is also well-performed, but I was disappointed by The Hebrides Overture, the performance of which is rather staid. This may be an overture that is done almost to death, yet it is nevertheless a thrilling and dramatic piece, and it is a great shame that this rendition is so lacking in excitement and passion; not nearly exhilarating enough.
The orchestra gets back into its stride a bit more for the final work, The First Walpurgis Night: a cantata based on Goethe’s eponymous ballad, which depicts Druids, who set out to terrify the occupying Christians with a masquerade of the Devil and his demons. Mendelssohn clearly allows his powers of imagination free reign in this colourful and extremely theatrical composition (amusingly and charmingly, he wrote of it that “The monster, and the bearded druid with his trombones that are standing behind him and tooting, give me a lot of fun.”). The Musikkollegium Winterhur and Zurcher Sing-Akademie here capture the terror and excitement superbly; the sole drawback of this recording being that the sopranos in the chorus are rather screechy. The quartet of soloists comprises alto Birgit Remmert, tenor Jorg Durmuller, baritone Ruben Drole and bass Reinhard Mayr, and all are very good with the exception of Remmert, whose very wide vibrato is rather warbly. On the whole, however, this is a sound rendition of a fabulous piece.