Never mind the Symphonie espagnole and Le roi d’Ys, Edouard Lalo is the last of the great unknowns in 19th-century French music. His mature instrumental works combine the wisdom drawn from his professional playing experience with the familiar flair for rhythm and colour. They are likely to transform any opinion you may hold: it isn’t often that the inspiration of Beethoven was so well digested in France. The first two trios don’t really count as mature, and although they contain fine things, especially in the scherzos, their characteristic soul, sweep and dash are often clumsily handled. With No. 3, form and feeling are as one, the first movement’s surges integral to its progress to a hushed end, while the slow movement builds a powerful span from a sustained melody. Between them comes the irresistible piece better known in Lalo’s later arrangement as a Scherzo for orchestra. These performances have the necessary robustness without stinting on delicacy.
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.