Mendelssohn: Octet in E flat major, Op 20 (original 1825 version)

Reviewed on Tue 20 Aug, 2013

Mendelssohn has always been known as a brilliant genius, but no work in the history of music is more precocious than his Octet for strings, composed in 1825 when he was just sixteen. Nothing that even Mozart had written by age 16 is as imaginative, as expressive, as noble as this mighty work. (The Overture to A Midsummer Night's Dream is just as amazing, but it was composed one year later.) The present recording, based on the original manuscript, is considerably different from the revised version, chiefly in having longer development sections in the first and second movements and a more developed fugato in the finale. The Octet that we all know is more concise, yet in this version every note is well-considered and necessary, and nothing seems excessive. This scintillating performance gives us a fresh look at a work that has never lost its freshness.
–Mark DeVoto