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Mendelssohn: A Midsummer Night's Dream; Hebrides Overture / Herreweghe

Album Summary

>Mendelssohn, Felix : A Midsummer Night's Dream
>Mendelssohn, Felix : Hebrides Overture, in B minor Op. 26 "Fingal's Cave"
Conductor Ensembles Composer

Notes & Reviews:

This reissue in harmonia mundi's hmGold series features Philippe Herreweghe's acclaimed 1994 recording of two favorite works by Felix Mendelssohn. Performed here on period instruments by the Orchestre des Champs-Elysees, the overture and incidental music from A Midsummer Night's Dream shines as never before, with a glorious lightness of timbre and spirit. The disc concludes with the powerful and atmospheric Herbrides Overture.

Gone are the days when Mendelssohn was patronized as a benignly smiling by-product of early romanticism, best served by his busy scherzos and a handful of charming Songs without Words. With baroque music as 'flavour of the age', it seems only natural that we should rediscover - indeed reappraise - all that is neat, winsome and uncluttered in Mendelssohn's music, its slender forms and high level of invention. Most modern performances of A Midsummer Night's Dream have tended to reflect this new-found appreciation, with Harnoncourt and Masur being particularly strong on filigree detail and a sense of wonder.

Philippe Herreweghe now joins them, underlining - much as he did in his excellent Elijah, the dramatic impact of Mendelssohn's strategic brass writing. Eleven items are included out of a potential total of 14; the string tone is chaste and pure, the winds likewise, while the overall sound picture is both warm and luminous. The brass tell with particular effectiveness in the Overture and "Wedding March" (the latter also sporting prominent cymbals), while in "Ye Spotted Snakes" the modest but proficient chorus effect some charmingly antiphonal "gute Nachts". Herreweghe's choice of tempos is judicious, with a pert, unhurried "Scherzo", a "Nocturne" that doesn't linger and an "Intermezzo" that is well paced but lacks something in terms of pathos. A lean, dramatic and nicely shaped Hebrides Overture completes a disc which would, I suppose, have benefited from the inclusion of an extra item or two. The recordings are extremely well balanced.

As to rivals, Masur's Leipzig disc (my own favourite) has the edge over Herreweghe in terms both of character and atmosphere, although if half a dozen key items will suffice then 1 wholeheartedly endorse AS's enthusiasm for Armin Jordan's Suisse Romande performances on Erato (also with The Hebrides, as well as Die schOe Mehisine): some of the most sensitive and imaginative Mendelssohn conducting in the current catalogue - although, again, the programme represents rather short measure for a single full-price CD. Herreweghe's lively offering is best recommended to those whose main priority is a sense of period orchestral texture.

...one of the lightest performances of the work that I have ever heard.

Sunday Times, 24th June 2012
This unusually full version of Mendelssohn's Shakespeare score - only music inseparable from the spoken word is omitted - is a delight. Herreweghe's period-instrument band make the most of the riches offered.

BBC Music Magazine, Christmas 2012
Herreweghe draws some imaginative colours from Mendelssohn's brilliant score with an outstanding contribution from soprano Sandrine Piau.

Notes & Reviews:

Recording information: 02/1994.


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Works Details

>Mendelssohn, Felix : A Midsummer Night's Dream
  • Conductor: Philippe Herreweghe
  • Ensemble: Chapelle Royale
  • Running Time: 41 min. 28 sec.
  • Period Time: Romantic
  • Written: 1843

>Mendelssohn, Felix : Hebrides Overture, in B minor Op. 26 "Fingal's Cave"
  • Conductor: Philippe Herreweghe
  • Notes: Composition written: 12/11/1830.
  • Running Time: 10 min. 2 sec.
  • Period Time: Romantic
  • Form: Orchestral
  • Written: 12/11/1830