Men­delssohn

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Music Reviews - Gra­ham Strahle

Aus­tralian Cham­ber Orches­tra BIS USUAL opin­ion has it that Men­delssohn’s string Octet in E flat and his over­ture to A Mid­sum­mer

Night’s Dream are his ear­li­est master­pieces, writ­ten when he was 16 and 17 re­spec­tively. But among his pro­lific out­put be­fore then was an im­pres­sively large Con­certo for Vi­o­lin, Pi­ano and Strings in D mi­nor, which he wrote soon af­ter his 14th birth­day and per­formed in a house con­cert with his vi­o­lin­ist friend Ed­uard Ritz in May 1823. It sparkles with con­ver­sa­tional vi­vac­ity be­tween the two solo in­stru­ments, but as churl­ish as it is to crit­i­cise the work of a young teen, this con­certo is no mas­ter­piece. It is al­most as if young Felix could not de­cide whether he was com­pos­ing a cham­ber work or a con­certo, be­cause in giv­ing all the ac­tion to the soloists he lets the orches­tra fall silent for long stretches. The melodies are not par­tic­u­larly mem­o­rable ei­ther. Nev­er­the­less, the Aus­tralian Cham­ber Orches­tra, vi­o­lin­ist Richard Tognetti and pi­anist Polina Leschenko give this work a most per­sua­sive per­for­mance that al­most suc­ceeds in dis­guis­ing its struc­tural failings. The soloists play with ex­quis­ite lyri­cal del­i­cacy. Their use of ru­bato is heavy at times, but the re­sult is ut­terly charm­ing. The in­ter­est of this record­ing oth­er­wise falls on a work the ACO al­ways per­forms well, Men­delssohn’s Octet. This it plays here with mirac­u­lously ebul­lient mu­si­cian­ship. Many in­ter­pre­ta­tions of this work strive for a ge­nial mild­ness, but not so the ACO’s. The play­ers give it brac­ing vigour, but grace too, all of which adds up to a greatly sat­is­fy­ing per­for­mance of this gem of a work.

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