MENDELSSOHN: Piano Concerto in a; Double Concerto – Soloists/ Freiburg Baroque Orch. – Harmonia mundi

by | Feb 16, 2012 | Classical CD Reviews

MENDELSSOHN: Piano Concerto in a, MWV 02; Double Concerto, MWV 04 – Kristian Bezuidenhout, fortepiano/ Gottfried von der Goltz, violin and direction/ Freiburg Baroque Orchestra – Harmonia mundi 902082, 71:40 ****:
We are all familiar with the typical Mendelssohn prodigy stories—the Octet and Overture to A Midsummer Night’s Dream at age 15, pieces that even the great Mozart could not equal at that age. But there was more to come, including these two works on this disc that were completed in a short period of time when he was 13 and 14! The Mendelssohn family was very well off, and their Berlin home was often the scene of concert soirees that included hired orchestras. The A-minor Concerto was written for sister Fanny, every bit the virtuoso as her brother, and was given at the Mendelssohn home. Influenced by Weber’s piano works and composed at the same time as Beethoven’s late quartets, the piece is full of wild and wicked thirds, chromatic passages, and what one might even call, as the emperor did in Amadeus, “too many notes.” There are thousands of them, and one marvels at how the composer can keep the intensive pace up. It is precisely this sense of frequent wandering abandonment that probably proves the work’s Achilles’ heel, but even so the sheer thrill of the ride provokes wide-eyed wonder, and the whole is quite fun.
The Double Concerto for violin and piano is slightly later but way advanced over the piano concerto stylistically. Mendelssohn’s childhood friend and violinist Eduard Rietz was the object of his efforts this time, along with the composer himself.  Version One was for strings alone but quickly revised for full orchestra; indeed it is hard to think of it any other way now. The highlight of the piece is probably its lyrical and quite beautiful second movement. Neither of these concertos was published during Mendelssohn’s lifetime, and only reached the public in the 1960s.
All soloists and forces are first rate, and the period band pours their hearts into these stimulating, sometimes overwrought, but always fascinating works. It’s nice to hear a period orchestra play with such passion and wide-open uninhibitedness. No Mendelssohn collection is complete without some samples of his amazingly proficient early work, and this release will do just fine.
—Steven Ritter

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