MENDELSSOHN A Midsummer Night's Dream
To Mendelssohn Thomas Dausgaard brings the qualities that have distinguished his cycles of Beethoven, Schubert and Schumann, notably a spring in the step, especially on dotted rhythms that lift and sometimes iconoclastically swing into the next bar.
The music for A Midsummer Night’s Dream is done complete, with no linking narrations but female voices well matched to the Swedish Chamber Orchestra’s quick vibrato, lightly applied, and with a superbly characterful first clarinet. If the flutes set the scene in the Overture – and here they surge with hoots of joy into the first tutti – it is the clarinets who lead off the Scherzo’s merry dance, and the procession in the comic funeral march which could have been composed by Mahler, and then was, in the slow movement of his First Symphony.
In such subtle parody and deadpan wit, Dausgaard has a kinship with Klemperer’s particular approach to the score, demonstrated in recordings from 1951 (Concertgebouw, Archiphon), 1955 (Cologne Radio, ICA) and 1960 (Philharmonia, EMI). Their tempi may differ here and there – hardly at all in Amsterdam – but their rhythmic grip of, say, the horn duet opening the Nocturne sets them apart from the broad arches drawn by André Previn. Like Masur, and few others, Dausgaard finds a true andante rather than adagio for this movement; but, unlike Masur, he also takes heed of the qualifying tranquillo in the passing clouds of the central section.
A ‘period’ style of orchestral balance (lit with an agreeable acoustic haze by the BIS engineers) does not extend to chopping up phrases: Dausgaard and his Swedish players bring a velvet legato to the second theme of the Overture. Bottom’s bray is likewise assimilated within the texture of an early-Romantic orchestra and not tipped into parody. The seascape concert overtures are similarly spruce, their episodes not tacked about but brought home to abrupt and atmospheric closure: ship’s docked, off you get. Is this disc the overture to a symphony cycle? I hope so.