Written at the tender age of only 16, Mendelssohn's Op. 20 Octet has nonetheless remained one of his most admired, mature chamber works. More than just a mere doubling of string quartet writing, Mendelssohn's use of the eight instruments is much more independent and symphonic, almost using the composition as a warm-up for his symphonies that would follow shortly. A year before the Octet was finished, Mendelssohn also wrote a Sextet for piano and strings using the very unusual instrument combination of violin, two violas, cello, bass, and piano. The performances on this CPO album by I Solisti Filarmonici are as divergent as the works themselves. By far the strongest piece on the disc is the Sextet. The piano adds a nice sense of definition and brightness rounded out by the depth and resonance of the double bass. Though it was not published until after his death, the Sextet certainly deserves additional consideration, and quality performances like this can go a long way toward introducing it to listeners. The Octet, on the other hand, is a different story. Through much of the piece, only the first violin and first cello can be heard with any true clarity; the remaining strings blend into an indistinct wash of background sound.
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AllMusic Review by Mike D. Brownell
|Octet for strings in E flat major, Op. 20|
|Sextet for piano and strings in D major, Op. 110|