Mendelssohn: Violin Concerto (CD review)

Also, Octet for Strings; 3 Lieder. Daniel Hope, violin; Thomas Hengelbrock, Chamber Orchestra of Europe. DG 477 6634.

Daniel Hope is fast becoming a leading light of violinists in our day, and this recording is a good example why. Not content merely to repeat yet another Mendelssohn Violin Concerto, Hope goes back to Mendelssohn's original intentions in a manuscript the composer drafted in 1844, a little more than a year before he premiered the work.

In the booklet insert, Hope explains that Mendelssohn later made about a hundred changes to the score, the lack of which you probably won't notice in this recording because they're so subtle, like the absence of several overlapping winds before the soloist's entrance in the first movement. But a really big change is the way the composer initially intended for performers to attack the first movement--with "fire." And that's exactly what Hope does throughout the Concerto. Even without all the nuanced changes, this would be an outstanding interpretation for its vigor and enthusiasm.

If it's a gentle, traditional reading you're looking for, you won't find it here. This one is new and vital and incisive in the extreme, yet without ever stepping across the boundaries of propriety or sounding overbearing. Likewise, the Octet (performed from an original manuscript the composer meticulously prepared in 1825, eight years before its official publication) comes across with spirit and elation. Then, the program ends with three short Lieder, the third of which, "On Wings of Song," is sublime.

DG's sonics are mostly excellent, very smooth, very warm. They lack something in inner detail and definition, but they make up for it with their wide dynamics and impact. These are punchy performances for which DG provide punchy recordings. Well done, all the way around.


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John J. Puccio

John J. Puccio

About the Author

Understand, I'm just an everyday guy reacting to something I love. And I've been doing it for a very long time, my appreciation for classical music starting with the musical excerpts on The Big John and Sparkie radio show in the early Fifties and the purchase of my first recording, The 101 Strings Play the Classics, around 1956. In the late Sixties I began teaching high school English and Film Studies as well as becoming interested in hi-fi, my audio ambitions graduating me from a pair of AR-3 speakers to the Fulton J's recommended by The Stereophile's J. Gordon Holt. In the early Seventies, I began writing for a number of audio magazines, including Audio Excellence, Audio Forum, The Boston Audio Society Speaker, The American Record Guide, and from 1976 until 2008, The $ensible Sound, for which I served as Classical Music Editor.

Today, I'm retired from teaching and use a pair of bi-amped VMPS RM40s loudspeakers for my listening. In addition to writing the Classical Candor blog, I served as the Movie Review Editor for the Web site Movie Metropolis (formerly DVDTown) from 1997-2013. Music and movies. Life couldn't be better.

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When I was young, I heard it said that only intellectuals could appreciate classical music, that it required dedicated concentration to appreciate. Nonsense. I'm no intellectual, and I've always loved classical music. Anyone who's ever seen and enjoyed Disney's Fantasia or a Looney Tunes cartoon playing Rossini's William Tell Overture or Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 can attest to the power and joy of classical music, and that's just about everybody.

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"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa

"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa