MENDELSSOHN A Midsummer Night’s Dream TCHAIKOVSKY Manfred
Riccardo Chailly’s debut as Music Director of the Lucerne Festival Orchestra in 2016 was Mahler’s gigantic Eighth Symphony, completing the critically acclaimed cycle of his predecessor, friend and mentor Claudio Abbado. A highlight of Chailly’s second Lucerne season is the concert on this Accentus disc pairing the Bard and Byron, featuring Mendelssohn’s Overture and movements from his incidental music to A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Tchaikovsky’s Manfred.
Although made up of players drawn from top orchestras, including an understandable recent influx from Chailly’s Filarmonica della Scala, many have been happy visitors to Lucerne for years, some since its birth under Abbado in 2003. The LFO strings include Wolfram Christ, principal viola of the Berlin Philharmonic, and a host of Hagens, while the sparkling woodwind line-up is headed by flautist Jacques Zoon and Santa Cecilia clarinettist Alessandro Carbonare.
Together they make a classy sound, and these are classy performances. Chailly’s Mendelssohn is affectionate, reflecting his time as principal conductor at the Leipzig Gewandhaus. The Overture is lovingly shaped, while the Scherzo is highly engaging, properly bracing in places, very attentive to dynamics. Alessio Allegrini provides rock-solid horn-playing in the Nocturne and the Wedding March has celebratory pomp.
Similarly, Manfred is treated to a beautifully sculpted account, although Chailly doesn’t really whip the score up to the frenzied heights of some readings, quelling some of the symphony’s inner turmoil. He gets polished playing from the LFO, woodwinds once again a delight. The biggest disappointment comes at the end with a damp squib of an organ entry in the orgiastic finale. But, sycophantic booklet note aside, this is an enjoyable release of what was obviously an enjoyable concert.