It’s not every evening that you get to hear a symphony by a fourteen-and-a-half year-old genius. And there’s an intriguing complication to this particular piece: it concerns the third movement – the Minuet. Mendelssohn came to London in 1829 when he was barely twenty. Due to perform this, his first symphony for full orchestra, he wrote to his parents, telling them, “Well, I looked over my symphony and – Lord! – the Minuet bored me to tears, and it was so monotonous and pleonastic. So, what I did was to take the Scherzo from my Octet for strings, and I added a few airy trumpets, and it sounded absolutely lovely.”
Well, in truth he did quite a lot more than just adding a few airy trumpets: he re-orchestrated it with brilliant writing for the winds, while retaining the mercurial lightness of the original version. It’s so good we thought you should hear this new version of the familiar Octet movement. But what about the original Minuet and the Trio? Is it really so bad and so boring as Mendelssohn would have us believe? If so, why, when he came to publish the symphony, did he put that version in the score and leave out the Scherzo? Well, as you might have guessed, you’re going to get two for the price of one.
I think both versions are really remarkable – as, indeed, is the whole symphony – and perhaps you would let us know at the end which version you prefer.
Total time: 01:02:11
|Original Recording Format|
Neil Hutchinson, Jonathan Stokes
The Barbican, London, England
|Recording Type & Bit Rate||
|Release Date||October 21, 2016|
‘A vigorous and incisive Italian, with a fresh and even more exhilarating “First”… a real tribute to the virtuosity of the orchestra… He [Gardiner] does not let us down—this is one of the finest and most astute readings [of Symphony No 1] I have ever heard.’
The Herald – Scotland
“The London Symphony Orchestra is at its most immaculate with Sir John Eliot Gardiner, through his completely fresh view of the [First Symphony, pretty much re-inventing it. This is a glorious album, along with a breathtakingly all’aperto performance of the Italian Symphony. The best you will hear.”
“Right from the off it’s infectiously smile-inducing, with delicately chirping woodwind and rhythmically incisive contributions from the strings. Gardiner is a stickler for Mendelssohn’s phrase markings. I’m sure it’s no coincidence that Gardiner’s experience with the music of J.S. Bach makes Mendelssohn’s own love of Bach more evident than usual.”
“Gardiner’s real competition is with himself, and the Vienna Philharmonic. But the strings of the LSO display unrivalled agility. Taken at a true presto, the finale [of the Italian] never quite spins out of control but sounds as though it might at any moment. Outstanding.”
The Sunday Times
“Gardiner’s Mendelssohn is as genial as it gets.”
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