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<<  -- 2 --  David Thompson    Resplendent performance


For the Mendelssohn 'Italian', Stokowski employs a large orchestra, as the matching 'widescreen' sound clearly emphasises. If you think this sounds a little old fashioned for the more 'authentic' tastes of today, then just play the very opening of the work [listen -- track 1, 0:00-0:55], and your preconceived reservations are likely to be instantly dispelled, in the sheer joyous energy that is unleashed. The outer movements positively fizz along with a bouncing rhythmic energy that is absolutely irresistible. The processional andante con moto has the perfect blend of gravitas and grace, whilst the minuet, even, as here, played by large forces, has a classical lightness and poise that reveal Mendelssohn's symphonic roots in Haydn and Mozart. This is a lovely performance, that mixes affection with virtuosity and drive. I defy you not to enjoy it.

Brahms' Second Symphony is also a work bathed in the optimistic light of summer sunshine, but where Mendelssohn positively races into the enjoyment of the experience, Brahms, typically, takes his time to savour it. There are few more magical paragraphs in all music than the opening of this Symphony, where, out of the rapt expectancy of the first bars, the sunlight emerges in the upper strings, and then burgeons in all its glory in the first tutti, as one of Brahms' most captivating and smiling movements is launched on its way [listen -- track 5, 1:12-2:12]. And Stokowski allows us to savour the experience to the full. The exposition repeat is observed, which is welcome, since such practice was the exception, rather than the rule, when this recording was made. Without it, we are deprived of some important bars of transition, and Brahms' formal scheme is seriously distorted.

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Copyright © 22 May 2002 David Thompson, Eastwood, Essex, UK




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