Mendelssohn: String Quintets No. 1 & 2
(Vera Beths, Anner Bylsma, et al.; L'Archibudelli)
Felix Mendelssohn's string quintets are sadly overlooked, but this new disc by period instrument group L'Archibudelli sheds plenty of light on these graceful works. Though 20 years separate the two string quintets, there's no denying that they're both beautiful masterpieces--the first is melodic and warm, while the second is energetic and more complex. Great playing and a perfect balance between the instruments make this CD a must-have for Mendelssohn lovers.
Songs Without Words
(Murray Perahia, piano)
This strange but fascinating collection of keyboard works performed by Murray Perahia proves to be highly effective. The lyrical miniatures of Mendelssohn's "Songs Without Words" compose the bulk of this collection, but Busoni's Bach organ transcriptions and Liszt's arrangements of Schubert songs are also included. Superb listening.
String Quartets Vol 3
(Sharon Grebanier, Mariko Smiley, et al; Aurora String Quartet)
This final volume of the Mendelssohn String Quartet series contains two major works, along with two isolated late movements published after the composer's death. Mendelssohn's String Quartets aren't heard nearly as often as they deserve to be, and it's a pleasure making their acquaintance (or reacquaintance) in performances like these. The Aurora String Quartet is one of those contemporary string quartets that plays on a technical level unimagined a generation ago, with tight, precise ensemble work that is a pleasure to hear. But this precision doesn't get in the way of a gracious, outgoing response to Mendelssohn's music. Excellent recorded sound, and a major-league bargain. (review by Leslie Gerber)
Symphonies no 3 & 4
(Chicago Symphony Orchestra; Sir Georg Solti, conductor)
This coupling of Mendelssohn's two most popular and musically important symphonies has always been one of Solti's better orchestral recordings. Although typically hard-driven, Solti's approach doesn't preclude lightness, and the virtuosity of the orchestra isn't in doubt for a second. Curiously, Mendelssohn himself withheld publication of the Italian Symphony, claiming he wished to revise the work before sending it to the printer. Those revisions have now been recorded (by Gardiner with the Vienna Philharmonic), and they demonstrate that Mendelssohn's first thoughts were best. In any event, this disc can be recommended without hesitation. (review by David Hurwitz)