Andrew Manze / NDR Radio Philharmonic Orchestra

Felix Mendelssohn: Symphonies Nos. 1 & 3

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For this 2016 audiophile release on Pentatone, Andrew Manze and the NDR Radio Philharmonic Orchestra present what seem to be historically informed readings of Felix Mendelssohn's Symphony No. 1 in C minor, Op. 11 and the Symphony No. 3 in A minor, Op. 56, "Scottish." While this orchestra is not a period ensemble, and the instruments they play are ostensibly modern, Manze's profound scholarship and feeling for authentic practices make these performances close enough to pass for period style, and most listeners will happily regard them as such. The brisk tempos, glossy string tone, and vibrant timbres of the winds are indicators of Manze's approach, and even the relatively small size of the orchestra contributes to the effect. In terms of interpretation, Manze gives the Symphony No. 1 a Mozartian lightness and transparency, which is fitting, since the 15-year-old Mendelssohn clearly had Mozart in mind when developing his materials. But the shift in mood and coloration to a darker Romantic sensibility is fully apparent in the Symphony No. 3, which Mendelssohn composed over 13 years and which, when taken in order of composition, was the last of his five symphonies. Here, the NDR Radio Philharmonic Orchestra plays with a little less Classical polish but considerably more passion and a robust sound, and Manze clearly increases the emotional temperature in the turbulent first movement. But for a sample of the group's exuberance, try the Vivace non troppo, which offers some of the orchestra's most joyous playing.

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