Felix Mendelssohn

Symphony No. 3 in A minor ("Scottish"), Op. 56

    Description by John Palmer

    Mendelssohn's Symphony No. 3 in A minor, Op. 56, is the last symphony the composer completed. Mendelssohn's letters show that his first inspiration for the symphony came in 1829, during his first visit to England. After some sketching, Mendelssohn set aside the piece until 1841, when disappointments in his life placed him in a mood similar to that he experienced in England 12 years earlier. The early conception and sketching may account for the squarness of some of the themes. The piece was completed on January 20, 1842; it was first performed on March 3, same year, in Leipzig, and was published in 1843. After a successful performance of the symphony in England in 1842, Mendelssohn received permission to dedicate it to Queen Victoria.

    Each movement is to move immediately to the next without pause, setting it apart from Mendelssohn's other symphonies. To the tempo markings of each movement Mendelssohn adds directions reflecting the character of the music, which conveys Mendelssohn's impressions of the Scottish landscape.

    Opening with a restrained, Haydn-esque slow introduction, the first movement moves suddenly to an Allegro un poco agitato tempo with a main theme that is treated with variation technique. The orchestration is among Mendelssohn's most dense; curious and exhilarating modulations open both the development section and coda. The development section is concise and effective. When the main theme returns in the recapitulation and the introduction returns in the coda, the themes are underpinned with a counter-theme in the cellos. The coda also contains the famous chromatic "wave," played by the strings.

    The cheerful Scherzo, marked Vivace non troppo, is derived from Scottish folk music, which is a surprise, since in 1829 Mendelssohn complained that such sounds gave him "a toothache." It stands in stark contrast to the thick first movement and is in sonata form. The movement fades and dissolves to prepare for the ensuing Adagio.

    Resignation reigns in the third movement, an Adagio cantabile in A major. A clear reference to Beethoven appears in the low strings, which play a motive resembling the theme of the Allegretto of Beethoven's Seventh Symphony. Reminiscences of Beethoven's Op. 74 String Quartet also appear. Beautifully orchestrated, the movement is in two major sections separated by returning material.

    Folk melodies appear again in the Finale, an unusually powerful and militant movement for Mendelssohn. A leaping, aggressive theme in the violins begins the movement, appropriate for Mendelssohn's direction, Allegro guerriero (Fast and warlike). Fragmentation technique propels the development section as themes are layered and treated contrapuntally. After the recapitulation we do not hear a coda with thematic references to the exposition. Instead, Mendelssohn shifts to a Maestoso coda, in which we hear new material and the theme from the introduction, which is again taken through variations and now conveys an air of triumph after the "battle." The symphony closes in A major.

    Parts/Movements

    1. Andante con moto - Allegro un poco agitato - Assai animato
    2. Vivace non troppo
    3. Adagio
    4. Allegro vivacissimo - Allegro maestoso assai

    Appears On

    Year Title Label Catalog #
    2018 Hänssler Classic HC 16098
    2018 Decca / Deutsche Grammophon 4798418
    2018 LSO Live LSO 0826
    2018 Deutsche Grammophon
    2018 Linn Records CKR 614
    2017 PentaTone Classics PTC 5186595
    2017 Deutsche Grammophon 4797337
    2017 Recursive Classics RC 2057019
    2016 RCA Red Seal 88875169792
    2016 Deutsche Grammophon 002894795516
    2016 Harmonia Mundi HMC 902228
    2016 Warner Classics 0190295974909
    2016 Praga / Praga Digitals PRD 250328
    2016 Deutsche Grammophon 4795553
    2015 Altus ALT 308
    2014 Deutsche Grammophon
    2014 Oehms Classics OC 898
    2014 Chandos CHSA 5139
    2014 Challenge Classics CC 72641
    2014 LSO Live LSO 0765
    2014 Linn Records BKD 216
    2014 Haenssler / Hänssler Classic 93313
    2013 Decca 4785437
    2013 Ars Produktion ARS 38118
    2013 Warner Classics 172308
    2013 Profil - Edition Günter Hänssler PH 13032
    2013 Decca
    2013 Deutsche Grammophon 4791046
    2012 Berlin Classics 0300341BC
    2012 Berlin Classics 0300341
    2012 Naxos 8501057
    2012 Brilliant Classics 93777
    2012 EMI Classics / Warner Classics 5099995591
    2012 EMI Classics
    2012 ZYX Music CLA 101322
    2012 Concerto / Zebralution
    2011 EMI Classics
    2011 MDG 90116636
    2011 Red Bus Classical RCLAS 045
    2011 Alto ALC 1140
    2011 Apex 2564673910
    2011 Warner Classics
    2011 EMI Classics / Warner Classics 5099909797222
    2010 Sony Classical 8869768365
    2010 Guild / Guild 2358/9
    2010 Warner Classics
    2010 Deutsche Grammophon
    2010 Decca
    2010 RPO 28340
    2010 BIS 1604
    2010 Denon Records
    2010 Decca
    2010 Decca 4782366
    2010 Documents / Fab Four 233022
    2009 ZYX 10077
    2009 Haenssler 98552
    2009 Decca 4781525
    2009 Warner Classics / Wcj 4692729
    2009 Brilliant Classics 93777
    2009 Denon Records
    2009 Maestro Music 4693674
    2009 Denon Records
    2009 Denon Records
    2009 Sony Music Entertainment 88697420722
    2009 Brilliant Classics 93888
    2009 Membran 231755
    2008 Berlin Classics 0184312BC
    2008 Universal Classics & Jazz
    2008 Berlin Classics 0184512
    2008 Brilliant 93164
    2008 Nimbus Records 7085
    2008 Deutsche Grammophon 4777581
    2008 Brilliant Classics 93672
    2008 EMI Classics
    2008 EMI Classics 20954
    2008 Decca 4780102
    2007 Decca 4758677
    2007 Apex
    2007 Medici Arts 14
    2007 EMI Classics / Warner Classics 0946381788
    2007 EMI Classics
    2007 Berlin Classics 0186002
    2007 Brilliant 93178
    2006 Querstand 507
    2006 Testament 1377
    2006 Supraphon 38762
    2006 Profil - Edition Günter Hänssler 5048
    2006 Erato
    2006 Decca 4768459
    2006 Rca Red Seal 76234
    2006 Berlin Classics 0185512
    2006 Warner Music 62769
    2005 RCO Live 05001
    2005 Divine Art 25028
    2005 Real Sound (RS) 116
    2005 RCA Red Seal 67885
    2005 Nimbus 7074/5
    2005 Virgin Veritas
    2005 EMI Classics
    2005 EMI Classics
    2005 Haenssler 93133
    2005 Deutsche Grammophon 000532302
    2005 Deutsche Grammophon 4775692
    2004 Arts Music 47700
    2004 Resonance 3018
    2004 Brilliant 92393
    2004 Linn Records 216
    2003 Arts Music 47620
    2003 EMI Music Distribution 74965
    2003 ASV 6004
    2003 Warner Music 49817
    2003 Warner Classics
    2003 Linn Records 205
    2003 Tim 220828
    2002 Brilliant 99761
    2002 Deutsche Grammophon
    2002 Decca 470946
    2002 Vox VOX7813
    2002 Telarc Distribution 80184
    2002 London 448514
    2002 History 205186
    2001 Tahra 370-71
    2001 EMI Music Distribution 574946-2
    2001 Teldec 18954
    2001 Hungaroton Echo Collection 1028
    2001 Sony Music Distribution 28881
    2001 Naxos 8 506011
    2000 Amadis 7179
    2000 Angel Records 61735
    2000 RS 90
    2000 Philips Classics 468187
    2000 Angel Records 66868
    2000 Decca 466990
    2000 Tring 020
    1999 EMI Music Distribution / Warner Classics 7243573558
    1999 Philips 442130
    1999 Warner Classics
    1999 Decca 460239
    1998 Deutsche Grammophon
    1998 Delta Distribution 11550
    1998 Orfeo D'Or 488981
    1998 Intersound 2834
    1998 Arts Music 47506
    1998 Berlin Classics 0093562
    1998 New York Philharmonic 9701
    1997 Koch Schwann 6702
    1997 Point Classics 267024
    1997 Chandos CHAN7090
    1997 Naxos 553200
    1997 Deutsche Grammophon 449 743-2GOR
    1997 Philips 456 071-2PM2
    1997 Nimbus NI1765
    1996 Music & Art 1016
    1996 Carlton 00812
    1996 London 443578
    1995 Eurodisc 69237
    1995 Mercury 434 363-2MM
    1995 Infinity Digital 64556
    1995 Philips 442661
    1995 Novalis 150121
    1995 Orfeo 277921
    1995 Curb 78028
    1994 Deutsche Grammophon 439 980-2GGA
    1993 Orfeo 89841
    1993 Sony Music Distribution 47591
    1992 Teldec 72308
    1991 Sony Music Distribution 46536
    1990 Deutsche Grammophon 429664
    1990 Deutsche Grammophon 427810
    1990 Deutsche Grammophon 427670
    1990 Laserlight 55003
    1989 Laserlight 15822
    1989 Naxos 550222
    1989 Laserlight 15820
    1986 London 414 665-2DH
    Deutsche Grammophon 437000
    RFCM Symphony Orchestra
    Lys 172
    Deutsche Grammophon 431038
    RCA 60483
    Berlin Classics 0020762
    Sirio 530015
    Gemini Collection 618
    Decca 00028947816812
    EMI Music Distribution 66279
    Philharmonia of the Nations 11
    Universal Distribution 471467
    Hungaroton 12660
    Excelsior Recordings 019
    Deutsche Grammophon 415353
    High Definition Classics 18
    Vox 5165
    Deutsche Grammophon 437012
    Chandos 10224
    BMG 60893
    Argo 411931
    Chandos 9032
    Urania 11904
    Philips 420884
    Sony Music Entertainment 60679
    Collins Records 30452
    EMI Classics 63853
    MusicMasters 67088
    Brilliant 92393/3
    Brilliant Classics 93672/3
    Brilliant Classics 8635/59
    Brilliant 93178/15
    Brilliant 93164/2
    Brilliant 99761/3
    LSO Live 0765
    ABC Classics 4763626
    Nimbus 5318
    Tring 020
    IMP Classics 849
    Vox 7128
    White Label 161
    Movieplay Music 11029
    Meridian Records 84261
    Theorema 121135
    Brilliant Classics 93777/1
    ABC Classics 4763623
    Nickson 1010
    Tim 220829
    Sony Music Distribution 52514
    Winterthur
    K&K Verlagsanstalt 11277
    New York Philharmonic 9704/05
    Laserlight 35820
    History 205189
    Iron Needle 1332
    London 433330
    London 433341