The opening chords to Mendelssohn’s Ruy Blas Overture are some of the most ominous in all Romantic music, and Riccardo Chailly gives them the works in this spirited new recording with the composer’s own orchestra from the Leipzig Gewandhaus.
Great stuff, and the five selections from A Midsummer Night’s Dream that follow continue the take-no-prisoners approach. Chailly’s well known for his late-Romantic extravaganzas but it’s in this smaller, earlier Romantic repertoire that his natural flair and ability to expand musical ideas from within is best demonstrated. This is big, in-your-face Mendelssohn, with the scherzo less elfin and more goblin-esque than usual, while any couple using this lively reading of the Wedding March on their big day better be wearing track shoes to keep up.
Mendelssohn’s Piano Concertos, featuring Saleem Ashkar are similarly meaty, the First starting off with such energy that it’s as if the music’s already built up a head of steam before the Record button was pressed. Ashkar gives it lots of razzle-dazzle, although some detail gets lost in the more intricate passages with the balance a little too much in favour of the super-charged orchestra. The Second Concerto isn’t so well known, but such is the full-blooded attack from Ashkar and Chailly it sounds like it could have been Beethoven’s Sixth. All up, here is Mendelssohn as Romantic hero.