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Mendelssohn: the Piano Concertos - Matthias Kirschnereit (2009)

Mendelssohn: the Piano Concertos - Matthias Kirschnereit (2009)

Mendelssohn: the Piano Concertos - Matthias Kirschnereit (2009)
EAC Rip | Flac(image + cue + log) | 457 MB | 2 CD | Full Scans
Genre: Classical

I come to this set of the complete Mendelssohn piano concertos, fresh from gushing over Derek Han in the piano concertos. To a first and second concerto, this set adds: (1) a reconstructed piano concerto in E minor, and (2) the early concerto in A minor for piano and string orchestra. Our band is a regional outfit, the Robert Schumann Philharmonie Chemnitz. Our conductor is Frank Beermann. Our soloist is Matthias Kirschnereit.

Chemnitz is in the Saxon State region of Germany. It has other bands of fairly big reputation, in Leipzig, in Dresden. 2009 represents the two hundreth anniversary of Mendelssohn's birth, so Leipzig and a number of other places or peoples are celebrating. One guesses this new set from Arte Nova is part of that recognition. The RSPC has never achieved the recorded catalog prominence of bands in Leipzig or Dresden, despite its 170-year history. This musical group sounds like a strong regional band, and given how much regional players around the world have been improving in the past decade or two, noting that the group is a regional band is not a first nod against the music.

Frank Beermann? He rose through the ranks of Germany's regional music organizations, stepping right up in opera, Detmold to Darmstadt, to Freiburg, Hamburg, and then really began to hit a career stride with assignments in Berlin, Stockholm, Bonn, Munich, Leipzig, Barcelona, and Marseille. As an opera leader, Beermann has a reputation for bel canto readings of Donizetti and others. Since 2007-2008, Beermann is appointed music director in Chemnitz. This gives off a clue that maybe he is something of an orchestra builder (like many notable leaders in the past), and so might be charged with building up the RSPC.

Matthias Kirschnereit? He studied in Detmold, too, and had a break-through win in the Bonn German Music competition and the Australian Geza Anda competition. He has recorded a few solo discs, with his big splash probably embodied in the complete set of Mozart piano concertos he has added to the catalog. In that set, Frank Beermann is again at the helm, and the band is Bamberg SO. One suspects that the complete Mozart concerto set will leave a lasting mark in the catalog, though how long it will be available in your local commercial markets, nobody can say for sure. Kirschnereit is fully the equal of nearly any distinguished Mozartian of the recent or far past, for whom we have recorded documentation. He reaches right up there, high. His Mozart can stand open comparison with Brendel, Perahia, Uchida, Rubinstein, Curzon, Clara Haskil, you name it. Kirschnereit has already been named to the piano competition jury of the pending Gina Bachauer competition, set for 2010.

The sound is very good in this set. It offers a medium-sized sounding hall, probably the home of the band in Chemnitz. Frequency balance is fine. No complaints about the engineering balances of reflected versus direct sound, either. You can hear plenty of detail, from the piano (Steinway D), and from the band. This lets us listeners really hear all the ensemble moments that Mendelssohn wrote into these works, and as it turns out, that really heightens the sparkle and energy that permeates these readings.

Kirschnereit is his own man when it comes to Mendelssohn and the piano. Typically, players emphasize the lyrical-romantic axis when playing Mendelssohn. The risk of focusing on that axis is mainly that Mendelssohn in his piano music can come off, sounding far too much like a German middle class, drawing room composer, with musical colors more often pastel than not, musical effects much more genteel than not. Kirschnereit knows enough to phrase those melodies with singing verve. However, he also adds punch. He prefers not to peddle any more than he has to, so his playing comes through with enormous clarity. These talents serve Mendelssohn as well as they have already served in that Arte Nova released complete set of Mozart piano concertos.

Competition among alternative readings for the first and second Mendelssohn piano concertos is pretty high. Derek Han, Murray Perahia, Stephen Hough, Rudolf Serkin, Howard Shelley, Andras Schiff, Thibaudet, Anton Kuerti, John Ogdon. An Amazon search turns up, towards a thousand or more listings. Kirschnereit and friends belong towards the higher reaches of the preferred lists. You can get recordings of Mendelssohn played differently; you can hardly get recordings of this music, played better.

Beyond the first two concertos, the additional lure of this set will be the reconstructed piano concerto in E minor, and the early student work for piano and string orchestra. That earlier music is just fine, though perhaps not as forcefully characterized as Mendelssohn's later music of large reputation. You can compare this early concerto with the contemporary Mendelssohn string symphonies, if you want to get a sense of their position in the composer's development.

The reconstructed piano concerto is new, unfamiliar. Scholar Larry Todd edited two movements from extant Mendelssohn sketches and drafts, which were mostly complete. The composer broke off working on this, his pending third piano concerto, to write the entirely memorable Violin Concerto in E minor. Then he never quite got back to finishing up those drafts. The most controversial aspect of this reconstruction may be the editor's decision to use the final movement of the famous violin concerto, transcribed for keyboard solo with band, as the concluding movement.

To my ears, it all sounds fine, true to the composer's style. Nobody will ever want to give up the violin concerto, of course, in favor of exchanging it for this reconstructed third piano concerto. But we can have both, thanks to the recording arts. If you do not already know the Mendelssohn piano concertos, you cannot go wrong with this set, including its reconstructed and early works. If you already own a favorite or two or three, well, this set might further enhance your fav shelf.

Five stars, recommended. And do check out those complete Mozart piano concertos. My sense is that Arte Nova stuff does not hang around in the USA catalog for all that long.


CD 1
Piano Concerto No.1 g-moll Opus 25
1. Molto allegro con fuoco 7:19
2. Andante 6:31
3. Presto molto allegro e vivace 6:28
Piano Concerto No.2 d-moll Opus 40
4. Allegro appassionato 10:01
5. Adagio. Molto sostenuto 7:23
6. Finale. Presto scherzando 7:17

CD 2
Piano Concerto e-moll (reconstructed and completed by R.Larry Todd, world premiere recording)
1. Allegro molto vivace 10:33
2. Andante 8:24
3. Allegro non troppo Allegro molto vivace
Concerto a-moll for Piano and String Orchestra
4. Allegro 15:08
5. Adagio 10:26
6. Allegro ma non troppo 11:04

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