James Judd / New Zealand Symphony Orchestra

Felix Mendelssohn: A Midsummer Night's Dream (Complete Incidental Music)

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This version of Mendelssohn's complete incidental music for A Midsummer Night's Dream has the advantage of using all of his music for the play, including not only the famous set pieces but the parts he wrote to underscore dialogue, performed with actors taking the spoken parts. It's intriguing to hear the music keyed precisely to the parts of the play for which it was originally intended. Although the British actors in this version are all seasoned professionals, they do the text no favors. They tend to sound arch, prim, stiff, and stagey, with minimal attempt at characterization and little evident understanding of the subtleties or humor of the text. Some of the blame must lie with the director, David Timson, who also takes the part of Bottom and manages to make the colorful character bland and unfunny. Given the prominence of the actors, their deficiencies negate any virtues in the musical performances. It's a shame because the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, Varsity Voices, Nota Bene, and soprano soloists Jenny Wollerman and Pepe Becker, led by James Judd, deliver a credible if unexceptional reading of the score. The lack of fullness of the sound and the horn solo in the Nocturne are reminders that this is not a world-class orchestra, though. The balance favors the actors so that the music takes a back seat except in the set pieces. There are other complete versions of the score with actors, which are more dramatically potent and musically polished, so there remains little to recommend in this release.

Track Listing

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
A Midsummer Night's Dream
1 12:37
2 4:24
3 2:21
4 4:18
5 4:08
6 1:39
7 3:34
8 6:57
9 7:03
10 6:02
11 4:59
12 4:44
13 2:52
14 1:35
15 3:41
16 0:29
17 5:10
blue highlight denotes track pick