Kurt Masur is one of the greatest living Mendelssohn interpreters, and this collection of lesser-known works from his famed tenure at the head of Mendelssohn’s own orchestra in Leipzig is an essential companion to the Brilliant Classics set of the composer’s complete symphonies conducted by Wolfgang Sawallisch (BC93777). There is the late and little-known Trumpet Overture, and two overtures that are more like The Hebrides in their painterly sensitivity to landscape.
Edda Moser is on thrilling form as the soloist in the concert aria Infelice, which takes its form and character from Beethoven’s Ah perfido as a taut scena for a wronged heroine. The main work is the secular cantata Die erste Walpurgisnacht, which rides on the early-Romantic wave of popularity for Gothic horror and drama, setting a text by Goethe which tells of a May-Day conflict between Christians and Druids, with the Christians portrayed as the forces of oppression: the 22-year-old Mendelssohn was still culturally Jewish at this stage, rather than the Christian Establishment figure that he later became.
As Gramophone’s reviewer remarked in 1995, "the performance itself positively seethes with life…Masur’s attentive ear guarantees a notable degree of clarity and precision. Furthermore, his excellent soloists and superb Leipzig Radio Chorus exhibit great stamina, and not a single hint of strain… Infelice is again played with great gusto, with Edda Moser bemoaning her fictional fate with unnerving conviction."
“Die erste Walpurgisnacht” is the fruit of the lifelong admiration of Mendelssohn for Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, the towering cultural and political influence of his time. The Cantata for vocal soloists, choir and orchestra vividly expresses Goethes dramatic tale, set in the times of the Celts and their pagan rites.
Excellent performance by the stellar Gewandhausorchester Leipzig under Kurt Masur, and famous soloists Eberhard Büchner, Siegfried Lorenz and Annelies Burmeister.
As generous bonus we hear three Overtures by Mendelssohn: Die schöne Melusine, Meeresstille und glückliche Fahrt and the Overture in C, testimonies of Mendelssohn’s remarkable genius for the perfect balance between form and content.
Booklet provides liner notes in English and German.