Louis Lortie

Mendelssohn: Piano Concertos 1 & 2; Symphony No. 5 "Reformation"

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This recording from Quebec's ATMA Classique label is a mixed bag in terms of both repertory and quality. The former aspect is a plus: the program of two Mendelssohn piano concertos plus the Symphony No. 5, Op. 107, "Reformation," is a natural mix that covers several phases of Mendelssohn's career and might easily show up on a live symphonic program, but CD marketers do not so often mix concertos and symphonies in this way. Montreal-born pianist Louis Lortie plays and conducts throughout, which Mendelssohn himself might have done, and the results are generally enjoyable. The high point is the opening Piano Concerto No. 1 in G minor, Op. 25, written in 1830 when Mendelssohn was 21 and evincing a brilliant feel for the way Beethoven's idiom might be combined with the emerging tradition of the virtuoso showpiece. Lortie's Presto finale has all the verve, sparkle, and fun that the great champion of Mendelssohn's concertos, Rudolf Serkin, brought to these works. The weightier second concerto and the Symphony No. 5 are more dependent on the strings of the Orchestre Symphonique de Québec, which don't always deliver the goods in terms of intonation, and in the rather ponderous symphony, which is where the Romantic musical approach to religion really began, there is plenty of competition for this recording. There's an energy throughout that recommends this disc for Mendelssohn lovers, however, and the sound is clear and unfussy. A good choice except for those whose interest is specifically in the Symphony No. 5. Booklet notes are in French and English.

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