Mendelssohn: Symphony No. 3, Schumann - Piano Concerto - Pires / Gardiner
LSO Live LSO 0765
Classical - Orchestral
Mendelssohn: Symphony No. 3 "Scottish"; The Hebrides Overture
Schumann: Piano Concerto
Maria Joao Pires, piano
London Symphony Orchestra
John Eliot Gardiner
Inspired by his travels to the British Isles and full of the influence of the rolling Scottish landscape, both Mendelssohn’s Symphony No. 3 ‘Scottish’ and his Overture: The Hebrides are amongst the composer’s most popular and admired works. The London Symphony Orchestra present us with inspiring performances of these works, as well as a performance of Schumann’s Piano Concerto, featuring the celebrated pianist, Maria João Pires.
Sir John Eliot Gardiner writes of this coupling; ‘Even if they spoke with different accents these genial Romantics were united in their ambitious fervour for ‘abstract’ music to be acknowledged as having the same expressive force as poetry, drama or the literary novel. The three works on this album exemplify the endeavour and range of invention of two of them, friends and colleagues in Leipzig’.
As well as SACD, this recording will be released on the new format Pure Audio Blu-ray, which will enable the orchestra to be heard in high resolution sound on every Blu-ray player. Bonus HD video footage of the full concert will also be included on the Blu-ray.
Review by Graham Williams - October 21, 2014
Sir John Eliot Gardiner's new cycle of the five Mendelssohn Symphonies for LSO live gets off to an excellent start with this first issue that couples the composer's overture 'The Hebrides' with his 3rd Symphony 'Scottish'. In addition to these works, we are given a typically searching performance of Schumann's Piano Concerto by the marvellous Portuguese pianist Maria João Pires that represents the inaugural solo concerto recording for this label.
As with the recent Berlioz release Berlioz: Symphonie Fantastique - Gergiev the performances come in a two disc package.
Disc 1 is a Pure Audio Blu-ray (5.0 DTS-HD MA 24bit/192kHz and 2.0 LPCM 24bit/192 kHz) that also includes an expertly filmed high definition video recording of the whole concert.
Disc 2 is the usual hybrid SACD (5.0 multi-channel and 2.0 stereo mixes recorded in DSD)
As one might expect Gardiner's performances do include more than a nod towards period practice. Strings play with minimum vibrato and are antiphonally seated while timpani and trumpets are notably crisp, but these are essentially generously phrased romantic readings of all three works, appropriate to the Zeitgeist of their respective composers.
'The Hebrides' is given an especially strong and characterful reading with the power of the sea evoked in each bar thanks to the alert and responsive playing from every section of the LSO. Gardiner's expansive treatment of the work's lovely second subject makes a most effective contrast between the Overture's fast and slow sections. The same level of interpretative skill is evident in Gardiner's account of Mendelssohn's 3rd Symphony in which, as the concert video shows, the violins and violas played standing up. The breathtakingly virtuosic playing in the 'Vivace non troppo' is matched by the richness, flexibility of phrasing and above all sensitivity displayed by the LSO in the other three movements that combine to make Gardiner's performance something special.
Between the two Mendelssohn pieces Maria João Pires gives a wonderfully poetic account of Schumann's Piano Concerto. Tempi are more steady and less impetuous than on some recordings of this popular concerto, but the refinement and delicacy of her performance is unimpeachable. Gardner's expert accompaniment allows for some wonderful interplay between soloist and the LSO winds. A further bonus on the concert video is the inclusion of Maria João Pires's encore – a mesmerising account of 'Vogel als Prophet' from Schumann's 'Waldszenen' Op.82 No.7.
The sound quality on these discs is amongst the best that I have heard from LSO Live. The piano is very well balanced with the orchestra and the shortcomings of the Barbican acoustic are minimal. Perhaps it is also worth mentioning that the booklet artwork is the most attractive I have seen on an LSO Live disc.
It is to be hoped that future issues in this cycle equal the standard set by this one.
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