MENDELSSOHN A Midsummer Night's Dream
Anyone following this Mendelssohn series from the LSO and John Eliot Gardiner will find much to enjoy here: in the pinpoint precision of melody-carrying flutes and violins, the sure-footed bass and above all a sense that the composer is being taken seriously. The Monteverdi Choir and stand-out soloists spin magic from their brief contributions; the Scherzo has the same irresistible momentum and danger as the comparable movements in the First Symphony (reviewed on SACD, 10/16), which was performed in the first half of the same concert and is reissued on the Blu ray disc as part of a film of the entire concert.
Like Claudio Abbado on his late BPO recording (Berliner Philharmoniker, 3/16), Gardiner omits some music for the rude mechanicals – the parodistic little funeral march is a particular loss – and there is an impression common to both that they are more comfortable with the lofty, Athenian nature of Mendelssohn’s inspiration than his touches of broad, naturalistic humour. The Wedding March is rather stiff, and the Nocturne is played as a symphonic slow movement compared to the more urgent, chamber-scale approach of Thomas Dausgaard (BIS, 1/16).
Some of the missing mischief is supplied by the concert film. The Barbican stage is set in sylvan blue and green, and flitting around the orchestra are three young British actors, graduates from the Guildhall School next door. Ceri-lyn Cissone switches between Titania, Hermia and Fairy, while Frankie Wakefield doubles as Oberon/Theseus and Alexander Knox as Lysander/Puck. Never arch or plain, their contributions are adapted and sensitively expanded from the Shakespearean cues printed in the Breitkopf edition. In both concept and delivery, they bind the music together as a conversation piece sui generis, recommendable as such as an alternative to both the music-only Dausgaard and Klemperer and the many ‘sweet savours’ of Seiji Ozawa’s version (DG, 10/94), where Dame Judi Dench does all the voices.