The first CD in this boxed set has all the well-known works. I do not
intend to major on the Concerto for Piano and Orchestra No. 1 in G minor or
No.2 in D minor save to say that both works are played with skill and great
attention to the contrasting moods. Brilliant piano writing is presented in
the fast movements whilst the slow movements are well-played 'songs without
words'. Most commentators would express a preference for the 1st
Concerto, both in terms of technical achievement, structural cohesion and
The Rondo Brilliant in E flat major (1834) is really a showpiece for the
pianist. Hinson (Music for Piano and Orchestra, 1993) notes the 'dazzling
staccato octaves' and the multitude of broken chords. This is a charming,
work that displays an 'easy-going lyricism' and 'feel-good factor' in the
exposition of the main rondo theme and the colourful episodes. The same
adjectives can be applied to the Capriccio Brilliant in B minor dating from
six years earlier. This Weberian piece opens with a thoughtful slow section
before becoming vivacious. The somewhat banal second theme of the allegro
has been noted by commentators, but overall this is an attractive little
work that shows off the pianist's skill.
The Serenade and Allegro Giocoso is a clever little piece that balances an
opening dialogue between pianist and orchestra with a bubbly allegro:
Radcliffe (The Master Musicians, 1954, 1990) has characterised this as
'well-behaved and genteel hilarity'.
CD 2 presents two concertos. The first is an early effort for Piano and
String Orchestra composed in 1822. The second is a reconstruction of
Mendelssohn's Concerto for Piano in E minor (No.3). The former is an
attractive work that owes much to Hummel (1778-1837) and possibly Weber
(1786-1826). It is technically brilliant and displays youthful confidence.
It is quite a long work at some 34 minutes. It can be regarded as
Mendelssohn's Piano Concerto No.0.
The later work was left unfinished. In fact, the liner-notes suggest that
in many places it was barely begun. The opening of the first movement was
sketched in full: the rest of the allegro and the andante have only the solo
piano part extant. Brief drafts of the finale also exist. The work was
realised by Marcello Bufalini in 2006. The liner-notes allude to the
potential problem of the concerto being more Bufalini than Mendelssohn. Yet,
clearly great scholarship has been brought to bear on these surviving
sketches. I feel that the work does fit in with the trajectory of
Mendelssohn's numbered piano concertos, in spite of darker tones and a more
reflective pianism. Oleg Marshev certainly makes of this reconstructed work
an excellent promotional job. I can only find reference to two other
versions of this work in the CD catalogue: Roberto Prosseda with the Leipzig
Gewandhaus Orchestra/Riccardo Chailly and Jennifer Eley and the English
Chamber Orchestra/Sayard Stone.
The third CD is devoted to the two double concertos - in A flat major and
E major. Both were composed when Mendelssohn was around fourteen. Hinson has
noted that these concertos display all the hallmarks of the Romantic style.
In spite of their sound-world these two works are largely classical in form.
Both are full of energy, sparkle and sheer joy of living. Where the mood
becomes a little more reflective, Mendelssohn is perfectly capable of
providing a deeply thoughtful 'adagio' or 'andante'. The balance between
poetry and virtuosic statements is perfectly maintained. Philip Radcliffe is
a little less than generous when he suggests that 'they do not approach in
imaginativeness such works as the Rondo Capriccioso or the Capriccio in F
sharp minor . they contain some agreeable music.' Rob Barnett notes that
these are 'loquacious' concertos, and if by that he means slightly
long-winded, then I tend to agree. However, I believe that these two works
have a degree of subtlety and interest that will impress any listener who is
prepared to give them time to work their magic.
The bonus disc contains just one work: the Concerto for Violin, Piano and
Orchestra in D minor (1823) which was written when the composer was fourteen
years old. It is a big, confident work that explores a genuinely romantic
world. The first movement allegro begins with a strong orchestral
introduction before the soloists join in with a 'classical double
exposition.' The 'adagio' is surprisingly warm and reflective for such a
youthful effort. The concluding 'allegro molto' is effectively a rondo: it
begins with a brisk piano solo, before being joined by the violinist. The
episodes are interesting and often intricate in their execution. It is an
exciting and lively conclusion to this little-known but ultimately enjoyable
and effective work.
Rob Barnett has noted that Oleg Marshev is 'inseparable' from Danacord.
The Russian-born pianist has certainly made a huge contribution to their
catalogue. This includes cycles of the complete piano concertos and
concerted music by Rachmaninov
. A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of
reviewing the Chopin cycle (DACOCOD 701-702
). I have noted before that Marshev is not
a name that is well-known in the United Kingdom. A brief glance at the
background notes in the present release reveal an extremely busy
international soloist appearing in the Far East, the Americas and throughout
Europe. He also is engaged in a professorship at the Anton Bruckner
University in Linz, Austria.
Listeners must not forget the important contribution to this present
collection by the Danish pianist Anne Mette Staehr who trained at the Royal
Danish Academy in Copenhagen. She devotes much time to chamber music and the
recital room. In 1999 she made a definitive recording of the collected piano
works of Sofia Gubaidulina.
The Bulgarian Rumen Lukanov is the excellent violinist in the double
concerto on the bonus disc. He is now concertmaster of the South Denmark
The notes by Colin Anderson are the one problem with this CD: I needed a
magnifying glass to read the minuscule double column print. Additionally I
felt that a more little information could have been given about each of
these works: what is presented is useful and to the point.
Oleg Marshev and the other performers have excelled themselves in this set
of Mendelssohn's works for piano and orchestra. The wide parameters of style
call for an understanding of classical poise through to a strong bravura
technique with demanding use of octaves, staccato chords, restrained 'songs
without words' and complex arpeggios. Marshev takes all these technical
devices in his stride: the interpretation of these works are beyond reproach
and are totally satisfying.
I guess that this collection will be of more interest to Mendelssohn
specialists rather than the general listener. Most people will be satisfied
with having the two well-known numbered concertos. However, it is important
to be able to put these two great works into the context of the composer's
entire achievement for the genre. This recording is an ideal introduction to
this important part of Mendelssohn's achievement.
Previous review: Rob Barnett