Mendelssohn: Symphonies – No 4 in A major, Op 90 (Italian); No 5 in D minor, Op 107 (Reformation)

Reviewed on Wed 07 Oct, 2015

The Reformation Symphony (something of a Cinderella, unjustly) here lacks the atmosphere and excitement that Maazel conjured in Berlin (DG) and, in the scherzo, the affection that Colin Davis lavished on it in Munich (Orfeo).

One of Mendelssohn’s most popular works, the Italian Symphony receives a bracing performance, not as relaxed or as sunny as others, with some roughness (due I think to some authentic touches), and the recording leans toward the dry and edgy. The first-movement repeat is taken, while the middle movements are respectively plodding and impatient (Karajan is wonderful in the latter). The finale, not rushed, comes off best. (Off the radar, maybe, I have strong belief in Dohnányi’s account found in a Cleveland Orchestra own-label release, finer than his Vienna taping for Decca.) The Reformation Symphony (something of a Cinderella, unjustly) here lacks the atmosphere and excitement that Maazel conjured in Berlin (DG) and, in the scherzo, the affection that Colin Davis lavished on it in Munich (Orfeo). However, Andrés Orozco-Estrada has a feel for the music’s depth of feeling, even if he can be a little stolid at times. Good, overall, but not displacing competition.
–Colin Anderson