The City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra's Mendelssohn in Birmingham series, with a drawing of the city's Town Hall by Mendelssohn himself on the cover, rests conceptually on the multiple visits Mendelssohn made to the city, not on actual compositional activity there. Nevertheless, the performances have carried a certain flavor of tradition. The Symphony No. 2 in B flat major, Op. 52 ("Hymn of Praise"), is probably the least often performed of Mendelssohn's five. Loosely modeled on Beethoven's Symphony No. 9 in D minor, Op. 125, with its three instrumental movements plus choral finale, it has never seemed fully coherent. But Mendelssohn was arguably the first to realize the magnitude of what Beethoven had done, and the work deserves the more frequent performances it has been receiving. The strength of this one lies in the soloists: sisters Sophie Bevan and Mary Bevan make a fetching pair indeed (sample track 11, "I waited for the Lord"). Other attractions include the English-language text, probably rarer than the German version; clear, distinctive sonics from Chandos; and the presence of a genuinely underrated Mendelssohn orchestral work, Meeresstille und glückliche Fahrt, Op. 27 (Calm Sea and Prosperous Voyage), with its opening image of the ocean's rest nicely realized. For the orchestral and choral sections of the symphony, particularly the collection of chorales and fugues, the results will be a matter of taste; this is decidedly low-energy Mendelssohn. But there are novel aspects of this recording that will recommend it to most listeners.
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AllMusic Review by James Manheim
|Meeresstille und glückliche Fahrt, Op. 27 (Calm Sea and Prosperous Voyage)|
|Symphony No. 2, Op. 52 'Hymn of Praise'|