Mendelssohn Discoveries – Leipzig Gewandhaus/Chailly

0 of 5 stars

Symphony No.3 in A minor, Op.56 (Scottish) [London version, 1842, edited by Thomas Schmidt-Beste]
Symphony No.3 in A minor, Op.56 (Scottish) [Opening sketch, 1829/30, orchestrated by Christian Voss]
Piano Concerto No.3 in E minor [reconstructed and completed by Marcello Bufalini]
Overture – The Hebrides (Fingal’s Cave), Op.26 [Rome version, 1830, edited by Christopher Hogwood]

Roberto Prosseda (piano)

Riccardo Chailly

Recorded 7 & 8 September 2006 (Overture) & 22 & 23 January 2009 in Gewandhaus zu Leipzig

Reviewed by: Colin Anderson

Reviewed: November 2009
CD No: DECCA 478 1525
Duration: 70 minutes



This release brings together different versions and sketches of familiar pieces by Mendelssohn, not least the ‘Scottish’ Symphony and The Hebrides, together with a reconstruction and completion of a piano concerto in E minor. That Mendelssohn’s own orchestra, the Leipzig Gewandhaus, and its current incumbent, Riccardo Chailly, are involved adds distinction and intimacy to the project.

On this recording we hear the ‘Scottish’ Symphony in its earlier form, which was performed in London in 1842; in comparison to the revised and familiar score, the “London” version has more bars and differences of orchestration. In this urgent and rough-hewn account, scintillating in the scherzo and flowing in the slow movement, one notices a flash of unsuspected woodwind detail, a trumpet fanfare, several additional bars, and unfamiliar dynamics. It’s a bold performance, too, one that grips the attention.

Mendelssohn was not only an inveterate reviser, he could also procrastinate as to the worth of his music; also included is a sketch from 1829-30 of the opening bars of the ‘Scottish’; fascinating how he would change it regarding note values, scoring and harmonic intent. The most striking changes occur in The Hebrides (or Overture to the Lonely Isle, as Mendelssohn also planned to entitle the work), which seems to lapse into other works, is longer than the work we know, the original being two-thirds different to the definitive outcome.

The piano concerto, expertly completed by Marcello Bufalini (who writes an interesting note for the booklet, which is excellently annotated) is pleasant enough, more as if it were composed by a contemporary of Mendelssohn’s. It is inconsistent in quality if certainly with some ear-catching ideas, inconsistent in quality if without some ear-catching ideas; a fine performance though, not least from Robert Prosseda who lavishes much attention on this latest addition to the romantic piano concerto literature. Mendelssohnians need not hesitate.

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