…And, in fact, Elias has rarely been performed with greater respect for the original than it is here under the conductor Christoph Spering, who has recorded this “sacred opera” with his New Orchestra and the Chorus Musicus Köln in Essen’s Philharmonic Hall with the composer’s “dramatic ideal” fully in mind and heart. (…) The result was in fact an oratorio in opera form and a wealth of dramaturgical elements that absolutely enthralled the public. Fresh Interpretation Just as the composer would have wanted it, Christoph Spering has selected a full chorus and a magnificently dimensioned orchestra for this recording. The New Orchestra performs on historical instruments and in the two years since its founding has gained renown as an outstanding interpreter of the music of the romantic era. (…) Brisk tempos, sharp delineation, powerful expression, and interpretive freshness are the hallmarks of this new discovery for the MDG Live label.
In 1832 Felix Mendelssohn (1809-47) wrote to his sister Fanny that is what about time he wrote some ‘good trios’. He had already started but left unfinished a trio for piano, violin and viola, and started the D minor trio shortly after, completing it in 1839. Mendelssohn’s friend the composer-pianist Ferdinand Hiller advised him after the completion to make several revisions to make the work sound as up to date as possible – Hiller, was a pupil of Hummel was a keen supporter of Berlioz and Liszt. The result is a work of perfect proportions, with a brilliant piano part, skilful counterpoint and a wonderful blend of classical poise and romantic passion. Schumann reviewing the Leipzig premiere on 1840 commented that the trio was a masterpiece that would ‘bring joy to our children and grandchildren’. The 2nd trio is dedicated to the great German violinist and composer Louis Spohr.
In 1827, when writing his Quartet in A minor, Op.13, the 18-year-old Felix Mendelssohn was especially interested in Beethovens late quartets at a time when these works were generally written off as confused fantasies of a deaf musician. Mendelssohn's debt to Beethoven is evident in the important role of polyphonic techniques, particularly in the focus on cyclical connections between movements. Ten years on, Mendelssohn composed the three quartets, Op. 44, the D major quartet that closes the present disc the last of these to be completed; on publication, however, Mendelssohn placed it first in the set. Besides the seven complete quartets, Mendelssohn also wrote four individual string quartet movements. These were gathered together and published posthumously as op. 81, and on this second volume of their complete Mendelssohn cycle the Escher Quartet perform two of these pieces, both conceived in August 1847, shortly before the composers death.
Mendelssohn (1809-1847) is a perennially underrated composer who finally may be coming to greater appreciation. Certainly this fine recording (in English) of a masterpiece that he believed joined the Jewish faith of his fathers with his own Protestant Christianity should not hurt his reputation. The superb Welsh baritone Bryn Terfel gives a dramatically charged performance in the title role, while soprano Renee Fleming sings with beauty and limpid understanding; the cast is almost uniformly strong. The Edinburgh Festival Chorus, directed by David Jones, sings with care and conviction, and Paul Daniel conducts his forces firmly. –Sarah Bryan Miller.
Finally, Mendelssohn's string quartets are hitting the big time. Over the past decade, there have been more and, for the most part, better recordings of his quartets that at any time in history. Think of the Alban Berg Quartet's brilliantly bracing recording or the Quatuor Mosaïques' fervently soulful recording. Of course, there have also been some fairly mediocre recordings – think of the Emerson's recklessly energetic recording – and merely passable recordings – think of the Henschel's hastily enthusiastic recording.
'The masterpiece of our time in the trio genre' is how Robert Schumann described Mendelssohn's Piano Trio in D minor when he reviewed the work upon its publication in 1840. Comparing it to the trios by Beethoven and Schubert, Schumann continued: 'a very beautiful composition, which in years to come will continue to delight our grandchildren and great-grandchildren.' And so it has the D minor trio remains one of the most popular of Mendelssohn's chamber works, uniting the composer's gift for melody with his feeling for textures and formal mastery. A few years later he penned the Piano Trio No. 2 in C minor between February and April 1845. An intensely emotional first movement is followed by a blissful Andante espressivo and a shimmering, truly Mendelsohnian Scherzo. The Finale returns to the passionate mood of the opening, but in the course of the movement hymn-like allusions appear and lend an air of sacred celebration to the movement. These two highpoints in the Romantic repertoire for piano trio are here performed by the young Sitkovetsky Trio.