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Reviews: Mendelssohn: Concerto for Violin, Piano and Orchestra - Wolters

Reviews: 1

Review by wehecht May 3, 2011 (3 of 5 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:    
I've had this disc in my collection for at least two years, listened to it a couple of times, and thought no more about it. Last night, in the mood for some Mendelssohn, I popped it in the player and was blown away. It's customary to express amazement at Mendelssohn's precocity when discussing his early works, especially the string symphonies and the Overture to A Midsummer Night's Dream, but this concerto for violin and piano, written at the age of 14 really is astounding as it pushes and pulls at the edges of Mendelssohn's classical predispositions, pressing onward from Mozart toward, and in some ways even past, Beethoven into more fully blown romanticism. This impression is no doubt reinforced by the impassioned performances by Ursula Schoch and Nina Tichman accompanied by the Neue Philharmonie Westfalen under Theo Wolters. The only other recording of the piece I've ever heard (and I've never heard it live) is by Isabelle van Keulen and Ronald Brautigam on one of BIS' generous long playing sacds. That performance strikes me as more classical, perhaps more elegant, but less powerful and exciting. The differences are emphasized by the orchestral accompaniments, a poised and precise chamber orchestra for van Keulen and Brautigam versus a very large modern symphony orchestra for Schoch and Tichner (the notes say that the NPW is an amalgamation of two earlier orchestras and numbers some 128 players, though obviously not all of them would be employed in these pieces).

The discmate, Mendelssohn's justly popular E minor violin concerto, is another matter entirely as literally dozens of other recordings grace the catalog. I own four others on sacd, Swensen, Hahn, Mullova, and van Keulen, and probably another eight or ten on rbcd, and Schoch's performance sits quite comfortably beside the best of them. For those who, like me, had never heard of Ursula Schock I'll just mention that she is apparently the leader of the violins of the Royal Concertgebouw. Again, this is a full-throated performance that, if not the last word in nuance, is ultimately very enjoyable.

In multi-channel the balance between soloist(s) and orchestra is reasonably well presented, the former being somewhat more forward than real life but not alarmingly so, however the overall orchestral sound can be somewhat over reverberant, particularly at lower volume levels (things come more clearly into focus as the level is raised). Ultimate clarity is sacrificed in favor of power, which suits my own prioirities well enough but might not suit yours as well. Switching to stereo also mitigates the reberberance but at the cost of bringing the soloist(s) even more forward.

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