Mendelssohn in Birmingham, Vol. 2

Edward Gardner / City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

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Mendelssohn in Birmingham, Vol. 2 Review

by James Manheim

The Mendelssohn in Birmingham title of this ongoing series refers both to the performances by the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra in the city's Town Hall and to the fact that Felix Mendelssohn himself had an ongoing relationship with the city and with that very venue. These recordings are not historical re-creations, however, and there's no effort to reproduce specific Mendelssohn programs from Birmingham or even specific pieces performed. Instead these are performances of well-worn symphonic works and an overture (similar to the first release in the series), led by Edward Gardner, one of Britain's more popular conductors. The chief attraction here is the rarest of the three works, the Symphony No. 1 in C minor, Op. 11. Gardner's reading catches the emergence of the adult Mendelssohnian voice in that work, in which the teenage composer moved from the series of short string symphonies he had composed up to that point into full orchestral scoring. The Symphony No. 3 in A minor, Op. 56 ("Scottish"), and Overture to Ruy Blas, Op. 95, are unobjectionable, but add little to the dozens of hundreds of performances of these works on the market. Probably of most interest to serious collectors of Mendelssohn's music; there are certainly more exciting readings of the "Scottish" symphony available.

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