Download Capella Savaria 2 - Nicholas McGegan

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Before one chooses to skip this review, please note that these are different versions than usual
of the thrice-familiar works presented here. The Violin Concerto is given in its original 1844 version, before the composer made several changes to the orchestration, and the "Italian" Symphony
is performed here in the second version from 1834, in which the composer made numerous changes
to the second, third, and fourth movements. The fact that he never got around to revising the/irst
movement has convinced most orchestras, even to the present day, to play the original score, but
Nicholas McGegan has here chosen to tack the original (untouched) first movement onto the
revised remaining movements.
The ear picks up many, if not all, of the textural changes in the Violin Concerto: despite the use
of a smallish orchestra playing period instruments, the sound is remarkably darker, almost ominoussounding (against such a small orchestra, the timpani is particularly forward), although part of this
impression is also conveyed by violinist Kall6's method of inflection in his phrasing. It should be
noted that he is not an imported soloist but, rather, the concertmaster of Capella Savaria, and a fine
one he is, too. The liner notes by Katalin Tam6s also make reference to differences in "the usage of
the theme in various registers" as well as "in some unpredictable harmonic solutions." But in the
end, different edition or not, the final question is: is this performance convincing? And the answer
is a resounding yes. McGegan is one of those very rare conductors, like Minkowski and Norrington,
who know how to make a period orchestra "speak," to give it nuance and expression, and in the end
that is always more important than the specific medium (period instruments or whatever) being used.
There is no question in my mind that this is one of the premier recordings of this warhorse. When
the music shifts to the uptempo lilt of the third movement, Kall6 is right there in mood, giving a lift
to his bowing that practically spurt the notes out of his instrument; and here, in particular, the winds
of Capella Savaria contribute most remarkably to the overall texture.
The "Italian" symphony, likewise, gets off to a rousing start, the winds and strings joyously
bouncing their way through tlre music. There is a noticeable accelerando at the end of this movement, driving the music home with panache. One of the first noticeable differences comes at the
beginning of the second movement, where the "pilgrims' march" is changed-subtly, but enough to
make a difference in how the themes cohere. (Also, by using such a small orchestra, the clarinets
sound so clear that they almost come across as recorders, a unique effect in my experience.) The
third movement's changes are largely in orchestration, too, but there is also a very surprising change
from major to minor in the playing ofthe horns in their later reappearance that does not appear in
the original version of the symphony. This harmonic change ties in to the brief minor theme of the
full orchestra that is present in both versions.
The last movement Saltarello has a few changes, mostly in texture, but thanks to the incredible
clarity and transparency of the orchestra and McGegan's almost torrid pace, it sounds quite different from most versions. I did detect a few musical alterations here and there: little ones, but enough
to make the movement sound more cohesive musically than it usually does (note particularly the
swirling strings, a nice touch and a very original one). With such clear textures, even the stingpizzicatos have more "bite" than they normally do, and the swirling string figures almost have the effect
of a swarm of bees or hornets. I should also mention that these performances are given at A:430, a
shade below modern pitch, for those who keep score on such things.
Overall, then, a most interesting and, I think, valuable addition to the Mendelssohn discography. Bravo to Kall6, McGegan, and the orchestra! And bravo, too, to engineer Mikl6s Csik6s,
who has kept everything forward and sharply etched in the soundspace so that no detail is lost.
Lynn Ren6 Bayley
MENDEISSOHN Symphonies Nos. 1 and 5 . Thomas Zehetmair, cond; Musikkollegium Winterthur'
MDG 90118146 (SACD: 58:06)
About this time, two years ago, I reviewed the first CD in the Musikkollegium Winterthur's
projected Mendelssohn cycle, the "scottish" and "Italian" symphonies, led by Heinz Holliger. Now
the orchestra's performance ofthe First and "Reformation" symphonies is released under the baton
of violinist Thomas Zehetmair. The Musikkollegium Winterthur is Switzerland's oldest orchestra,
388 Fanfare
January/February 2014