After this recording was released in late 2007, some critics asserted that violinist Daniel Hope and the Chamber Orchestra of Europe's performances of Mendelssohn's ever popular Violin Concerto and Octet for Strings were anything but Mendelssohnian, that they were hard where they should be light and edgy were they should be sprightly. Others responded that the performances were all these things, but that these things are truly Mendelssohnian. Featuring the world-premiere recordings of the original version of the concerto and the revised edition of the Octet, the works as performed here represent the composer's first and second thoughts on well-known and -loved works, and the differences, while very subtle, clearly excite the players into giving their best. With his wiry tone, focused intensity, and flamboyant technique, Hope dominates the performances, making the concerto sound like a heroic ad astra per aspera work in the tradition of Beethoven's Fifth and Schumann's Fourth and the Octet sound like a chamber opera by Bellini with its virtuosic first violin part. Yet his interpretations make the argument that these qualities are intrinsic to the music, and though some might argue the opposite, Hope's performances are wholly convincing. Led by Marieke Blankenstijn, the Chamber Orchestra of Europe provides a fine foil for Hope, supporting him and sticking with him at all times, but also goading him and even provoking him. As an encore, Hope includes his own transcriptions of three lieder by Mendelssohn accompanied by pianist Sebastian Knauer -- Hexenlied, Suleika, and Auf Flügeln des Gesanges -- and each one is more lovely than the next. Deutsche Grammophon's digital sound is big, bold, and immediate.
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AllMusic Review by James Leonard
|Violin Concerto in E minor, Op. 64|
|Octet for strings in E flat major, Op. 20|