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Concerto for piano and Orchestra, No. 1 in G minor, Op. 25 [22:09]
Concerto for Violin, Piano and Orchestra in D minor [41:45]
Lachezar Stankov (piano)
Ivo Stankov (violin)
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra/Linus Lerner
rec. 2019, Whitgift School, Croydon, UK
MERIDIAN CDE84656 [64:06]

Felix Mendelssohn was without doubt a remarkable infant prodigy, creating great music at a very early age. His 12 String symphonies, written when he was between 12 and 14 are truly mature works. The overture to A Midsummer Night’s Dream, composed when he was 17, is a miracle and it was preceded by the String Octet that also is a masterpiece. The piano concerto No. 1 came to being when he was still fairly young, but at age 22 he was already a famous person. He wrote it in Italy at the same time as his Italian symphony, and it was frequently performed for many years – both Clara Schumann and Franz Liszt championed the work. It was however Mendelssohn himself who was the soloist at the first performance in Munich during a tour in 1831.

The concerto is in the traditional three movements but they are played without a break and in that respect can be seen as a model for Liszt’s second concerto. The first movement, Molto allegro con fuoco, is a power-house, with a lot of opportunities for the soloist to show off his technique. The slow movement is in contrast lyrical with an almost sacred main theme. A fanfare opens the finale and the movement is full of energy and a tour de force for both orchestra and soloist.

The concerto for violin and piano belongs to some early music that was found in the Berlin State Library in 1950. It has not really entered the standard repertoire – although it has seen a number of recordings. It was written by the 14-year-old Mendelssohn to be performed by himself together with violinist Eduard Rietz. They premiered the work on 25 May 1823 in the Mendelssohns’ house and later at a public concert at Berlin’s Schauspielhaus. It was originally written with string accompaniment only, but on this recording it is played in a version with woodwind, brass and timpani added and the result is imposing. Seeing the playing time for the movements – in particular the first one at almost 20 minutes – it is easy to think that this is a tremendously talented youngster who has been stricken with elephantiasis. And it is true that there is a profusion of themes that threaten to kill each other and disrupt the structure, but at the same time they are so full of ideas and vitality that in the end the movement doesn’t feel overlong. The superb playing of both orchestra and soloists – and the solo parts are definitely highly demanding – contribute to this feeling. The Adagio second movement is a beautiful resting point, where the solo instruments are firmly in the foreground, and one can’t avoid admiring the noble and dignified atmosphere that the teenaged composer has created. In the finale, Allegro molto, we are back in the virtuoso plethora of memorable themes of the first movement. The whole movement reeks with vitality and brilliance and after the final chords one feels that one has just had an injection of vitamin.

Readers who have not yet encountered the works of the young Felix Mendelssohn, should lend an ear to this recording, and those who already have a recording of the double concerto, which probably is the original version with string accompaniment, will be surprised by the heft and exuberance of the full orchestra variant. With a full-toned, well-balanced recording and inspired music making this is a disc to treasure.

Göran Forsling

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