John Eliot Gardiner / Monteverdi Choir / London Symphony Orchestra

Mendelssohn: Symphony No. 2 "Lobgesang"

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Performances of the Romantics by Baroque specialists have a checkered history, and despite the Bachian influences in Felix Mendelssohn's Symphony No. 2 in B flat major, Op. 52 ("Lobgesang"), there was little reason to think that Sir John Eliot Gardiner and his Monteverdi Choir would bring something distinctive to the work in this live performance, recorded with the London Symphony Orchestra. Yet they do, in a big way. The work, written in 1840, was Mendelssohn's choral symphony, perhaps his attempt to comprehend the vast accomplishment of Beethoven's Symphony No. 9 in D minor, Op. 125, using the rediscovered music of Bach in place of Schiller's bacchanal. It's never been considered a terribly successful work: in weighty traditional performances, it always comes off as ponderous. In Gardiner's reading, it's anything but. His key is to ignore the tempo indications (justifiable in that one of them is "più moderato") and offer what is probably the fastest performance on recordings. Sample the opening three-movement Sinfonia, perhaps the Allegretto, for an idea of the lightness Gardiner brings to the entire work. In the large cantata that concludes the hourlong piece (an hour and a quarter in many traditional performances), the years-honed warmth of Gardiner's Monteverdi Choir likewise brings the work to life, and the soloists, especially American tenor of the moment Michael Spyres, are top-notch. If you've never liked this work, give it another try in this guise.

Track Listing - Disc 1

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time Stream
Symphony No. 2 in B-flat major, 'Lobgesang' (Hymn of Praise), Op. 52
1 11:47 Amazon
2 06:06 Amazon
3 06:25 Amazon
4 04:09 Amazon
5 02:44 Amazon
6 00:52 Amazon
7 02:17 Amazon
8 01:47 Amazon
9 05:28 Amazon
10 04:04 Amazon
11 04:17 Amazon
12 01:33 Amazon
13 02:56 Amazon
14 04:16 Amazon
15 05:22 Amazon

Track Listing - Disc 2

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time Stream
Symphony No. 2 in B-flat major, 'Lobgesang' (Hymn of Praise), Op. 52
1 11:46 Amazon
2 06:06 Amazon
3 06:25 Amazon
4 04:09 Amazon
5 02:44 Amazon
6 00:52 Amazon
7 02:17 Amazon
8 01:46 Amazon
9 05:27 Amazon
10 04:04 Amazon
11 04:17 Amazon
12 01:32 Amazon
13 02:55 Amazon
14 04:15 Amazon
15 05:22 Amazon
blue highlight denotes track pick