Of all the nearly forgotten music by Mendelssohn, the most nearly completely forgotten is his music for chorus. Only his songs come close to being as almost entirely ignored, but because a few of them have earned a place in the recital hall, even they have a more prominent place in the repertoire. This 10-disc Brilliant set of Mendelssohn's complete choral works featuring the Chamber Choir of Europe under Nicol Matt addresses this problem even though it may not solve it. The performances are uniformly excellent. The Choir has a smooth tone and superb diction and Matt elicits from them polished balanced and ardent interpretations.
The symphonies are well-performed. 'Reformation' is an inspired live recording. The 12 string symphonies, written in Mendelssohn's youth, are also included. The concertos are exceptional - the violin concerto is as good as you'll find anywhere. The oratorios Elijah and Paulus are included, as well as the complete chamber works and a diverse assortment of choral works. The last few discs include the Lied ohne worte, the epic organ sonatas, and excellent renditions of A Midsummer Night's Dream and Fingal's Cave. While there are a few sketchy performances in the choral and chamber works, the performances and recordings are generally very solid, and the body of work couldn't be better.
In 1835 Felix Mendelssohn became music director of the Gewandhaus Orchestra in his native city of Leipzig. 135 years later, Kurt Masur became the orchestra’s Kapellmeister, remaining in the post for 26 years, so there is an indisputable seal of authenticity on these interpretations of the complete Mendelssohn Symphonies. Joining them in this collection, and making it unparalleled in its scope, are the complete early String Symphonies; they are performed on period instruments – and without a conductor – by Concerto Koln.
This reading shows the gentleness of the work perfectly…The essence of the score that Herreweghe brings out so well is Mendelssohn's flawless counterpoint, not just the fugal choruses but between orchestra and choir or woodwind and strings. The harmonic richness leaps out from the opening of the overture, with its lush orchestration of the chorale Wachet auf. It makes so much sense on a period orchestra.–Early Music Review
These classic recordings need little comment from me on artistic grounds. Heifetz's account of the Mendelssohn never has been bettered for sheer dazzling virtuosity, and although the Beethoven is more controversial (some find it "cold"), I love its unaffected, truly classical purity. Besides, you also get Munch and the Boston Symphony, no mean bonus. It's interesting to compare the two performances in multichannel sound, since the Beethoven is two-track, while the Mendelssohn offers three.