Edward Gardner / City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Mendelssohn in Birmingham, Vol. 5: Overtures

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The Mendelssohn in Birmingham series issued by the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra refers to the fact that Mendelssohn himself conducted his music at the Birmingham City Hall pictured on the covers of these albums. The title does not suggest that Mendelssohn conducted these particular works, and the hall is not an acoustic standout, but after you have been hearing the series for a while the music does seem to fit the space. This collection of overtures may be the strongest in the series: conductor Edward Gardner's punchy style results in pleasing reading full of momentum. These overtures including free-standing pieces, incidental music, and actual overtures to longer works. Many, like The Hebrides, Op. 26 (sample the clean, atmospheric rendering of this well-worn work), and Ein Sommernachtstraum, Op. 21, better known as A Midsummer Night's Dream. Others are less commonly heard, such as Meeresstille und glückliche Fahrt, Op. 27 (Calm Sea and Happy Voyage), which Mendelssohn wrote as a response to or elaboration on Beethoven's choral setting of Goethe's text. It's a fascinating piece, all instrumental, and in Gardner's calm performance it's worth the price of admission in itself. Recommended, and an excellent starting point for those new to Gardner's Mendelssohn series.

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