Classical Reissue Reviews
Famous MENDELSSOHN Recordings = Symphony No. 4 in A Major “Italian”; Piano Concerto no. 1 in G Minor; Symphony No. 5, “Reformation” – Halle Orchestra/Harty (Italian)/Ania Dorfman, piano/ London Sym./Goehr (Con.)/Paris Conser. Orch./Munch – Dutton
Published on May 7, 2008
Dutton CDBP 9781, 66:17 (Distrib. Harmonia mundi) ****:
Vintage Mendelssohn performances assembled under one roof, as it were, opening with Sir Hamilton Harty (1879-1941) and the Halle Orchestra of Manchester from 4 October 1931, rendering a spirited Italian Symphony. Typical of any Harty interpretation, delicacy of detail complements the rhythmic elan in all parts, and the Halle woodwinds emerge as translucent as the string choirs in the Allegro vivace first movement. Almost tumbling into the Andante con moto, there is no aural decay; and so the pilgrim’s march urges itself forward, the basses a constant presence until the counter-theme, where violas and woodwinds flourish. The third movement, Con moto moderato, Harty plays as an intermezzo not far the Brahms conceptions for his symphonies, excepting the Fourth. Distant horns and flute pipings announce the trio section, the martial atmosphere approaching the wedding scene from the Midsummer Night’s Dream, with a decided bass-fiddle rumble. The Saltarello movement scampers and bubbles at once, the festival at moments quite Dionysiac. The flute part moves at lightning speed, the string triplets a blur. The light touch dominates, the colors feathery until the rousing conclusion, when the polyphonically Mediterranean spirits converge in gleeful, elfin harmony.
The collaboration between pianist Ania Dorfman (1899-1982) and Walter Goehr in the G Minor Concerto (1 January 1938) comes at a time when Dorfman–a friend of the Toscanini family and a teacher at Juilliard–would play Beethoven with him; she would later re-record the Mendelssohn with Erich Leinsdorf. Dorfman’s credentials in this virtuoso music are no less established by her complete Song Without Words set for RCA, which some enterprising CD label might restore, along with her recital (LM 1758) that included Menotti’s Ricercare and Toccata. Fluid and fluent, the fiery first movement of the G Minor Concerto proceeds as one colored cloth, brilliant and darkly bravura. A lyrical Andante leads to a busy Presto finale, all finger etudes and lovely string accompaniments under leggierissimo filigree. Walter Goehr whips up a frothy brew that hurries this music right along.
The Mendelssohn Reformation Symphony with Charles Munch (10 February 1947) retains a nasal linearity typical of French ensembles of the period, but it does not lack for energy, especially in the second movement and in the plaintive enunciations of A Mighty Fortress is Our God refrains. The vague presence of Wagner–anticipated in the Dresden Amen sequences–informs Munch’s resolute procession, often transparent, the Paris Conservatory winds impressive. While not so manic as say, Mitropoulos or Maag, the realization is pietistic without pedantry, a solid version by Munch, just on the threshold of his New York series of inscriptions.
– Gary Lemco