John Eliot Gardiner / London Symphony Orchestra

Mendelssohn: Symphony No. 5 'Reformation'; Overture: Ruy Blas & Calm Sea and Prosperous Voyage

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John Eliot Gardiner has recorded Mendelssohn's Symphony No. 5, Op. 107 ("Reformation"), before, but only in a later revision that has generally been held to be inferior. So fans of Gardiner will be pleased to have this recording of the usual version, recorded live in 2014 at the Barbican Hall as part of the London Symphony's LSO Live series. The work is actually the second of the mature Mendelssohn's five symphonies; Mendelssohn wrote it in 1829 and 1830, in the flush of his enthusiasm for Bach, and struggled with it for some years afterward, so it was published last. Gardiner's historical-performance-influenced, rather dry reading of the symphony catches this enthusiasm; the weight of the work shifts to the last movement and its portentous intoning of "A Mighty Fortress Is Our God." Elsewhere Gardiner takes quick tempos and deploys vibrato in the strings, who are standing up, only sparingly. The proceedings can be viewed in action on an accompanying Blu-Ray disc, and listeners interested in the application of historical-performance principles to early Romantic repertory should generally be attracted by this release. Others may find it a bit plain, especially in the Ruy Blas and Calm Sea and Prosperous Voyage overtures, the former recorded separately from the other works on the album. Those make up a rather skimpy total of just over 47 minutes of music. Recommended for Gardiner fans.

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