Mendelssohn in Birmingham, Vol 4 - Pike, Gardner
Chandos CHSA 5161
Classical - Orchestral
Mendelssohn: Violin Concerto; A Midsummer Nights' Dream (excerpts)
Jennifer Pike (violin)
Rhian Lois & Keri Fuge (sopranos)
CBSO Youth Chorus
City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra
For this new recording of orchestral works by Mendelssohn, the CBSO and its principal guest conductor, Edward Gardner, join the violinist Jennifer Pike, who made a remarkable debut at Carnegie Hall this year.
She here performs the Violin Concerto in E minor, the piece that launched her career thirteen years ago when she became the youngest-ever winner of the BBC Young Musician of the Year Award. Her first album on Chandos (CHAN 10667: sonatas by Frank, Debussy, and Ravel) was praised by Classic FM as ‘one of the most outstanding début albums of recent years’. The music of Mendelssohn is probably more highly valued and widely loved today than it has been at any period since his lifetime. This recording contains two of his later works: the Incidental Music for A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1843), in which he managed to recapture and amplify the unique magic of his early years, and the Violin Concerto in E minor (1844), which has retained its standing among the three or four greatest of its genre ever since.
Review by Graham Williams - January 8, 2016
Volume 4 of this Chandos series 'Mendelssohn in Birmingham' brings us two of the composer's most popular works – the E minor Violin Concerto and the Incidental Music for Midsummer Night's Dream, neither of which require introduction to most music lovers.
Ever since winning the BBC Young musician of the year in 2002 at the age of 12 playing this very concerto Jennifer Pike's career has had an upward trajectory and, as this performance of the Violin Concerto demonstrates, her interpretation of the work has deepened over the past thirteen years.
The natural simplicity with which she plays the opening of 'Allegro molto appassionato' is immediately compelling and as the movement progresses the unforced lyricism of her playing continues to impress. Clearly this is an interpretation designed to communicate the beauty of Mendelssohn's writing rather than act as a vehicle for mere virtuosity, though the cadenza demonstrates the mettle of Pike's playing. The linked 'Andante' illustrates the sheer tonal beauty of the sound she elicits from her Matteo Goffriller 1708 instrument and the apparent ease and elfin lightness with which the finale is delivered is breathtaking. The deft accompaniment from Gardner and the CBSO is all one could wish for while Mendelssohn's light scoring ( A pair of flutes, oboes, clarinets, bassoons, and trumpets plus timpani and strings) means that the reverberant acoustic of Birmingham Town Hall does not create any problems of orchestral clarity. It is also pleasing to observe that the soloist has been placed at a realistic distance in front of the orchestra. This is a version to grace any Mendelssohn collection.
In the case of the incidental music to Shakespeare's a Midsummer Night's Dream Op.61 - composed at the request of King Friedrich Wilhelm IV of Prussia – Mendelssohn used the Overture Op 21 that he had composed sixteen years earlier and constructed thirteen new numbers in order to unify the piece. Six of those numbers are melodramas, that is patches of music to accompany or intersperse the spoken texts at key moments, and these are omitted from this recording. For some this may seem a loss in dramatic unity for others an advantage as, following the Overture Opus 21, we are given (1) Scherzo, (3) Song with Chorus, (5) Intermezzo, (7) Notturno, (9) Wedding March, (11) Dance of Clowns, and the Finale – a satisfying 39' 44” of glorious music. Gardner's account is interpretively straight forward – well paced with judicious choices of tempo – swift, but not lacking in sensitivity. Rhian Lois and Keri Fuge, the soprano soloists in the two vocal sections sing most attractively as do the CBSO Youth Chorus though the latter do not always enunciate as clearly as one might wish.
The Chandos 5.0 (24-bit / 96 kHz) recording matches that of the earlier three issues and those seeking a coupling of these works are unlikely be disappointed thanks to the high quality of the musicianship of all concerned.
Copyright © 2016 Graham Williams and HRAudio.net