Just as Rossini had accomplished with his brilliant String Sonatas twenty years earlier, Mendelssohn, too, was absurdly young when writing his wonderful String Symphonies (1821-3).
The repertoire was hitherto unknown to me. The music is charming and belies the youthful years in which they were composed.
There are 12 string symphonies, and record label cpo (based in my old stomping grounds of Osnabrück, Germany) has spread them over three volumes. I’m late to the party with Vol. 3. No matter when the music is performed and recorded so brilliantly. And I’m sure the other two volumes are at least as good. So, fans of Mendelssohn and beautiful string music, grab Vol. 1, 2 or all three.
Other than the head shaking youthful creativity, the highlight is the fabulous playing by L’Orfeo Barockorchester. Based in Linz, Austria and conducted by Michi Gaigg, the orchestra is splendid in timbre and brilliant in ensemble. They play HIP instruments perfectly in tune with gorgeous, tactile sounds. Many of the players fill their days teaching at the Bruckner Conservatory.
The recording is beautifully balanced and sounds superb on CD or streamed in HiRes on Tidal HiFi and Qobuz (all three volumes are available on both services).
Conducter Gaigg extracts the last ounce of charm from all the symphonies—phrasing is elegant and varied dynamics make for interesting listening. She and her wonderful orchestra already have over 30 CDs in the can. Lots to discover.
Mendelssohn wrote the 12 symphonies over a 2 year span (1821-1823). I urge you to discover them all, and while you’re at it, try the gorgeous Rossini String Sonatas, written around 20 years earlier by an equally talented 12 year old.
As a most welcome bonus to the symphonies, a dramatic scene for alto voice and string orchestra and other works round off the album.
Mendelssohn: String Symphonies Vol. 3
Margot Oitzinger (alto)
L’Orfeo Barockorchester, Michi Gaigg
Release Date: 28th Jun 2019
Catalogue No: 5552022
Length: 68 minutes