Over half a year ago, I raved about Sir John Eliot Gardiner’s Mendelssohn performances on the LSO Live label. Now along comes a disc containing the first and fourth symphonies and I am happy to report that it is just as fine as the previously released recordings. Once again the orchestra is the London Symphony and once again it pays magnificently, with refined, virtuoso abandon, and there’s an especially wonderful oddity in the performance of the first symphony. When the piece was first performed in England, Mendelssohn switched out the third movement, using the scherzo from his popular Octet, re-orchestrating it to include
wind parts. Gardiner includes this (as well as the regular third movement from the published score) and it is a total, Mercurial delight! This is the world of a A Midsummer Night’s Dream with strings and winds skittering around like elusive Will O’ the Wisps. The performance of the 4th “Italian” symphony is as good as I’ve heard, there’s beauty and elegance everywhere in the first three movements and the last one really strikes fire. The recorded sound is as good as it gets, whether you play the Blu-ray or SACD disc (both are included). A must buy and with the holidays not far away, perhaps a must gift. And now, speaking of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, it’s time for a Gardiner/LSO recording of that wonderful score.