Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Schneiderhan plays Mendelssohn and Bruch

Early Romanticism was the time of consolidating stylistic adjustments established by Mozart and Beethoven. One of the greatest composers of this era was Felix Mendelssohn who was often compared to Mozart since he was recognized as a child prodigy and in his early output strongly connected to Mozart’s style. In his childhood he wrote 12 String Symphonies and many other works. In later works, especially oratorios and choral compositions he was also searching for an inspiration in Bach’s musical ideas. He was active in many fields of music, teacher, conductor, performing artist, thus he was able to compose virtually in every form and for any kind of cast. This was pure romantic idea to connect forms and performing stuff in unusual manner. Mendelssohn’s Lieder Ohne Worte (Songs without Words), the great cycle of lyrical miniatures for solo piano became the source of inspiration for many romantic composers. 
The most famous symphonic work by Felix Mendelssohn is Violin Concerto E Minor, Op. 64. This is not the only concerto for violin by this composer. In 1951 Yehudi Menuhin rediscovered Concerto for Violin and String Orchestra D Minor written between 1821 and 1823, when composer was 12 to 14 years old. This virtuoso concerto sometimes is indicating as No 1. In Mendelssohn’s works one can find a whole series of concertos as well as numerous pieces in romantic forms, capriccios and concertinos for solo instrument and orchestra. Violin Concerto E-Minor is the last Mendelssohn’s orchestral composition and one of the best implementations of violin concerto form. There are many creative ideas composer followed writing this work. One is leading role of soloist in opening of the work and moving virtuoso cadenza before the recapitulation. To avoid applause between concert movements Mendelssohn abandon interruptions by connecting first two parts with single bassoon note developing into accompaniment for solo violin theme of Andante and third part starting attacca after fanfare-like short introduction. These are most visible novelties from formal classical point of view. Melody and harmonics of Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto are full of new qualities and brilliant ideas.

Mendelssohn and Bruch played by Wolfgang Schneiderhan (1958)

One of many standard records of Felix Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto E Minor and Max Bruch’s Violin Concerto No 1 in G Minor Op. 26 is album published in 1958 album of Deutsche Grammophon Gesellschaft (LPEM 19124) featuring Wolfgang Schneiderhan, violinist from Wienna who was active in DGG productions mainly in fifties. Album was joint edition of two 10-inch recordings published in fifties by the same label. Mendelssohn’s Concerto was recorded with Radio-Symphonie-Orchester Berlin conducted by Ferenc Fricsay and Bruch’s Concerto in G Minor was recorded with Bamberger Symphoniker under baton of Ferdinand Leitner. These recordings were the benchmark for performances in forthcoming years. Republished on 12-inch album these recordings were enough successful to have second DGG edition in 1961 and third license pressing by Heliodor label.
These mono recordings have a clear and deeply colorful sound.  Thanks to very good, perfectly trained orchestras and great conductors. Fricsay put the emphasis on classical phrasing energy and this is what let him to create almost transparent construction of Mendelssohn’s symphonism. Leitner is more emotional, trying to build some visions based on strong emotional contrasts. Considering technology of recording orchestra in these years, tutti sound surprisingly fresh. Both accompaniments are serving as good foundation for soloist. Wolfgang Schneiderhan was the kind of virtuoso towards to achieve technical perfection without breaking the rules or breaking conformity of style. His phrase is light and almost free of emotionalism, like he was trying to say there can be no more emotions than in notes alone. This is what makes his recordings maybe too much academic, but students don’t have doubts about its quality.

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