Sir John Eliot Gardiner conducts Mendelssohn

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Mendelssohn: Symphony No. 2 in B flat major, Op. 52 'Lobgesang'

Mendelssohn: Symphony No. 2 in B flat major, Op. 52 'Lobgesang'


Bringing his acclaimed Mendelssohn cycle to a rousing conclusion, Sir John Eliot Gardiner presents the composer’s symphony-cantata, 'Lobgesang', in his first ever performance of the work. Three world-class soloists join the LSO and his own Monteverdi Choir for this recording for LSO Live. Mendelssohn wrote that the piece "lies very near my heart", and with its stately grandeur and religiosity, plus its sheer magnitude, twice the length of any of his other symphonies, it stands amongst his most impressive works. Posthumously categorised by editors as his second symphony, it is also known as ‘Hymn of Praise’.

In an interview for The Arts Desk, John Eliot said: "It’s a piece I’ve been looking at for years, and I’ve never conducted it. I was a bit sceptical at first, thinking that it was the torso of a symphony with a cantata bolted on. But it isn’t. It’s a delight. It has a lot of the inventiveness and sheer melodic flow of the young Mendelssohn and it’s perfectly calibrated and constructed."

Presented as a Pure Audio Blu-ray and SACD Hybrid package - which includes master quality audio and downloadable content - this is the perfect end to Gardiner's exploration of Mendelssohn. Summing up his feelings at the end of the project, he said: "My admiration for Mendelssohn has gone up enormously, as a result of really digging deep into these symphonies...it’s so rewarding with this group of players, they’re willing to go to the nth degree, in terms of detail of phrasing and articulation, and that’s a joy."

Concert reviews:

"Gardiner brought his LSO Mendelssohn series to a rousing conclusion...performed with enormous conviction and swagger, delivering old certainties of sacred and secular pride in a way to make your eyes prick." Classical Source

"His [Michael Spyres's] German diction was furthermore crystal clear. Soprano Lucy Crowe gleamed in the middle passage...while mezzo Jurgita Adamonyté’s voice effused a luminous quality." Bachtrack

“fine soloists … I like the discipline of the Monteverdi Choir and the comparatively lean sound of the LSO” Record Review, 2nd September 2017

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Mendelssohn: Symphonies Nos. 1 & 4 'Italian'

Mendelssohn: Symphonies Nos. 1 & 4 'Italian'


Mendelssohn:

Symphony No. 1 in C minor, Op. 11

Symphony No. 4 in A major, Op. 90 'Italian'


SACD Hybrid + 1 Pure Audio Blu-ray

Read Presto's complete review of this disc here

Constantly in the vanguard of enlightened interpretation, Sir John Eliot Gardiner stands as a leader in today’s musical life. His award-winning Mendelssohn cycle on LSO Live showcases his period performance expertise; the LSO muscians standing to play, highlighting their individual musicianship. As Gardiner notes: "It gives a different type of dynamism and energy... it means that the fiddles are freer in the way that they attack the extremely virtuosic lines and it gives a tremendous sense of occasion to the music making."

Dramatic and harmonically adventurous, Mendelssohn’s Symphony No 1 is presented here in a unique format, with both the original and revised versions of the third movement. As Gardiner said when introducing the work in concert: "It’s not every evening that you get to hear a symphony by a 14-and-a-half-year-old genius and there’s an intriguing complication to this piece. When Mendelssohn came to London in 1829, he performed the symphony and he wrote back to his parents saying: “well, I looked over my symphony and, lord, the minuet bored me to tears! So what I did was to take the scherzo from my Octet and I added a few airy trumpets and it sounded lovely.” Well, actually he did an awful lot more than that; he re-orchestrated absolutely brilliantly. And it’s so good, we thought you should hear that version. But what about the minuet and trio? Why, when he came to publish the symphony did he use that version and leave out the scherzo? I happen to think they’re both really remarkable, as is the whole symphony, and perhaps you’d let us know which you prefer...?"

The Fourth Symphony is inspired by the sights, sounds and atmosphere of Italy and is among the best loved of all the composer’s works. Mendelssohn himself described it as: "the jolliest piece I’ve written so far." Symphony No 1 was broadcast across Europe on Mezzo TV, alongside Mendelssohn’s 'A Midsummer Night’s Dream', and this rich video content will be shared to support the release.

“Gardiner’s Mendelssohn is as genial as it gets.” Sunday Times, 21st August 2016

“Right from the off it's infectiously smile-inducing, with delicately chirping woodwind and rhythmically incisive contributions from the strings...Gardiner is a stickler for Mendelssohn's phrase markings...I’m sure it’s no coincidence that Gardiner’s experience with the music of JS Bach makes Mendelssohn’s own love of Bach more evident than usual.” Presto Classical, 9th September 2016

“the LSO [is] at its most immaculate with Sir John Eliot Gardiner, through his completely fresh view of the [First Symphony, pretty much re-inventing it…this is a glorious disc, along with a breathtakingly all’aperto performance of the Italian Symphony…the best you will hear” Herald Scotland, 9th September 2016

“Gardiner’s real competition is with himself, and the Vienna Philharmonic. But the strings of the LSO display unrivalled agility...Taken at a true presto, the finale [of the Italian] never quite spins out of control but sounds as though it might at any moment. Outstanding.” Gramophone Magazine, October 2016

“Gardiner keeps the LSO on its toes both in the C minor work and the Italian symphony, the winds producing crystal-clear articulation the hair-raisingly fast account of the latter’s concluding saltarello. He also effectively brings out the undercurrent of unease in the C minor work’s slow movement, and the final reprise of its theme is quite beautifully handled.” BBC Music Magazine, December 2016 ***

Presto Disc of the Week

9th September 2016

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GGramophone Magazine

Editor's Choice - October 2016

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Sir John Eliot Gardiner conducts Mendelssohn & Schumann

Sir John Eliot Gardiner conducts Mendelssohn & Schumann


Mendelssohn:

Symphony No. 3 in A minor, Op. 56 'Scottish'

Hebrides Overture, Op. 26

Schumann:

Piano Concerto in A minor, Op. 54

Maria João Pires (piano)


LSO Live presents the first in a series exploring the complete symphonies of Felix Mendelssohn under the baton of Sir John Eliot Gardiner. Also featured on this release is the eminent Portuguese pianist, Maria João Pires, in the inaugural concerto recording on the label.

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 Hebrides Overture (‘Fingal’s Cave’) are amongst the composer’s most popular and celebrated works.

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."

This recording will be released in both SACD and pure audio Blu-ray formats, allowing both the London Symphony Orchestra and Sir John Eliot’s performance to be seen and heard to full effect.

DSD recording, live at the Barbican, 21st January 2014

Video/ audio 2.0 Stereo and multi-channel (5.0)

Audio + bonus video material/digital (Blu-ray video of the entire concert plus Pires's encore).

Concert Reviews:

"This was the London Symphony Orchestra; but, with violins and violas standing and with a new suppleness and brilliance in their voice, they sounded Romantic and revolutionary. There was a brisk stepping-out, a bracing scent of the tangle o’ the isles, and tiny, drawn-back moments to glimpse the Romantic sublime." The Times****

"The opening of the Intermezzo was supremely graceful with Pires and the LSO’s cellos creating a chamber music intimacy in the ensuing dialogue. The cultivated way in which Pires and the LSO took up and finished phrases was masterful. The finale was a whirling dance with Pires really revving up the momentum while at the same time bringing out the fanciful elements in the score. The coda was played with gusto, bringing the piece to a sparkling conclusion." Seen and Heard

“As you would expect from the LSO brass section, the trumpets soar and blaze when appropriate, but it’s really the woodwind who excel [in The Hebrides]...Pires seems to focus on lyricism over drama, and that’s no bad thing [in the concerto]...It’s in [the Scottish] symphony that Gardiner’s credentials as a proponent of so-called historically-informed performance are most evident” James Longstaffe, Presto Classical, 20th October 2014

“a reading formed by life experience…Pires is supported by conductor and orchestra magnificently...I’ve never heard so much of the orchestral colour and detail in any other Schumann recording … My anticipation that this might be a special recording has been met.” MusicWeb International, 30th October 2014

“one of the finest performances of Schumann's Piano Concerto that I have ever heard...[Pires's] performance is as pristine and common-sensical as it is soulful and beguilingly expressive. The whole thing is absolutely wonderful, and an education.” Herald Scotland, 9th November 2014

“Gardiner's Hebrides Overture must be one of the most thrilling ever recorded, adding volleys of sea-spray to well-navigated execution...Ebb and flow is of the essence in this proto-Wagnerian masterpiece and a subtle use of vibrato...Gardiner makes a beeline for individual instrumental details, keeping important woodwind lines to the fore.” Gramophone Magazine, January 2015

“this ‘Scottish’ symphony is fresh, vital and even thrilling (a word that doesn’t always come up in discussions of Mendelssohn) as any I’ve ever heard…at its best it is so good that it can be recommended without hesitation.” International Record Review, January 2015

“[Pires] has the enviable ability to make everything sound fresh but natural, and her tone is enchanting...The definition on [the Blu-ray] is superb and the camera work actually helps the viewer understand the music.” BBC Music Magazine, February 2015 ***/*****

Presto Disc of the Week

20th October 2014

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Editor's Choice - January 2015

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Mendelssohn: Symphony No. 5

Mendelssohn: Symphony No. 5


Mendelssohn:

Symphony No. 5 in D major, Op. 107 'Reformation'

Calm Sea and Prosperous Voyage, Op. 27

Ruy Blas Overture, Op. 95


Sir John Eliot Gardiner and the London Symphony Orchestra join forces once again in the latest instalment of their exploration of Mendelssohn’s symphonies.

The previous release, Mendelssohn’s Symphony No 3, ‘Scottish’, coupled with The Hebrides Overture and Schumann’s Piano Concerto, has received widespread critical acclaim. Gramophone awarded the album Editor’s Choice and called it "a truly memorable performance"; IRR observed that "it is so good that it can be recommended without hesitation" and it received an ICMA 2014 nomination in the Best Collection category.

Mendelssohn’s Symphony No 5 was written in 1830 to commemorate the 300th anniversary of the Augsberg confession – a seminal event in the Protestant Reformation. Allusions to the symphony’s title and inspiration can be heard throughout the music itself: the Dresden Amen is cited by the strings in the first movement whilst the finale is based on Martin Luther’s well-known chorale 'Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott' (A Mighty Fortress is Our God).

Coupled with this are two of Mendelssohn’s overtures, both of which were inspired by literary works. 'Calm Sea and Prosperous Voyage', based on two short poems by Goethe, depicts the journey of sailors at sea with a still adagio opening ultimately giving way to a triumphant homecoming. Completing the album, the overture 'Ruy Blas' was commissioned by the Leipzig Theatre as an overture to Victor Hugo’s tragic drama of the same name.

DSD recording, live at the Barbican, March & October 2014, Audio 2.0 Stereo and multi- channel (5.1)

“Like all of Gardiner’s live cycles of the Mendelssohn symphonies at the Barbican, this one comes across with pace, clarity and flaming-eyed conviction” Financial Times, 16th May 2015

“This is something close to the ideal Gardiner experience: stringent while full of expressive detail, close-focus while still drawing the bigger picture...[The Reformation] has no room for stolid sermonising as it practically races to the chorale finale, with some remarkable finesse in the dynamics along the way.” The Times, 9th May 2015

“lovely smooth flowing tempo from Sir John Eliot Gardiner.” CD Review, 2nd May 2015

“it showcases Gardiner’s forensic method of working and his very good relationship with the LSO...The two overtures are extremely successful...The blaze of the final peroration [in the Reformation symphony] is thrilling, and Gardiner manages to give the impression that it shouldn’t really sound any other way.” MusicWeb International, May 2015

“absolutely startling…Gardiner has taken a completely fresh and forensic look at the music, and has virtually reinvented the symphony. It blazes anew: it's as simple and complex, as direct and sophisticated, as that...The LSO, here, is the best period band in the world.” Herald Scotland

“Ruy Blas is something out of the ordinary, and not only because of its sleek lines and uncommonly fast tempi but in one or two textural anomalies...Calm Sea...subscribes to a similar interpretative formula, clean, drivn and transparent...I'm fairly convinced that Gardiner's way [with the Reformation] was also Mendelssohn's way. It's a powerful reading, solidly argued, often exciting and vividly played throughout.” Gramophone Magazine, July 2015

“There's much to savour in Gardiner's urgently driven account of Ruy Blas, and the vibrato-less string passage that opens Calm Sea and Prosperous Voyage is simply spellbinding, reminding us of the wizardry and phenomenal aural imagination that is ever present in Mendelssohn's orchestration.” BBC Music Magazine, August 2015

“The London Symphony performances, crisp and driving, are attractive and satisfying.” New York Times

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Mendelssohn: A Midsummer Night's Dream - incidental music, Op. 61 & Overture, Op. 21

Mendelssohn: A Midsummer Night's Dream - incidental music, Op. 61 & Overture, Op. 21


Mendelssohn:

A Midsummer Night's Dream - incidental music, Op. 61

A Midsummer Night's Dream Overture, Op. 21

Recorded live in DSD128fs at the Barbican Hall, 16th February 2016


Ceri-lyn Cissone (Hermia/Fairy/Titania); Alexander Knox (Lysander/Puck), and Frankie Wakefield (Oberon/Theseus)

London Symphony Orchestra & The Monteverdi Choir, Sir John Eliot Gardiner

Read Presto's complete review of this disc here

Continuing his award-winning cycle of works by Felix Mendelssohn, Sir John Eliot Gardiner leads the LSO, his Monteverdi Choir and three talented young actors from the Guildhall in a landmark performance of 'A Midsummer Night’s Dream', which was performed as part of the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death. To mark the celebrations, Gardiner produced a special version of the work featuring some cuts to the original movements that, in his words, "remove all of the music relating to the Mechanicals and thus focus on the world of the fairies and the human lovers". Mendelssohn, who adored Shakespeare’s writings, composed his concert overture based on 'A Midsummer Night’s Dream' in 1827 aged 17, after having read a German translation of the play. The overture was immediately acclaimed as a masterpiece and quickly became a popular favourite throughout Europe. Years later in 1843 he was asked by the King of Prussia to provide a score for an entire production: 14 short works based on themes and moods from the original overture, with a broadly romantic sound although classical in style and structure.

The Pure Audio Blu-ray disc includes bonus footage of the concert performance of 'A Midsummer Night’s Dream' and Mendelssohn’s Symphony No 1, alongside high resolution master audio.

SACD Hybrid + Pure Audio Blu-ray | 2 disc jewel case with clear tray

2.0 stereo | multi-channel 5.1

Notes in En, Fr, Ge

“it definitely still feels like a full representation of Mendelssohn's sparkling music. And sparkle it does: there's a real lightness of touch in the Overture, and I was delighted with the way that Gardiner manages to make familiar music sound fresh...I wouldn’t have thought there was anything Gardiner could have done to invigorate that most familiar of tunes, namely the Wedding March, and yet that’s exactly what he does.” James Longstaffe, Presto Classical, 3rd February 2017

“Here, unless you were at the concert from which this recording was taken last year, is Mendelssohn’s Shakespeare music as you’ve never heard it before...Gardiner hears this music through the prism of period instruments and conveys its magic with his outstanding choir and soloists.” Sunday Times, 26th February 2017

“…much to enjoy here…pinpoint precision of melody-carrying flutes and violins, the sure footed bass and above all a sense that the composer is being taken seriously.” Gramophone Magazine, April 2017

“[Gardiner] secures remarkable crisp, lithe playing – some pianissimos are simply breathtaking – and restores a handful of cuts to the familiar performance version. His choral stalwarts are on top form, as are three impressive young actors from the GSMD” Classical Music, June 2017 *****

Presto Disc of the Week

3rd February 2017

BBC Music Magazine

Orchestral Choice - April 2017

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