Mendelssohn: Symphonies – No 3 in A minor, Op 56 (Scottish); No 5 in D minor, Op 107 (Reformation)

Reviewed on Mon 05 Jun, 2017

Antonello Manacorda uses Christopher Hogwood’s edition of the Reformation Symphony, which restores passages that the famously critical composer cut after the work’s trial run in 1832.

A superb coupling that harbours a major surprise. Like Yannick Nézet-Séguin on his memorable new complete set of Mendelssohn’s numbered symphonies with the Chamber Orchestra of Europe (DG, forthcoming) Antonello Manacorda uses Christopher Hogwood’s edition of the Reformation Symphony, which restores passages that the famously critical composer cut after the work’s trial run in 1832. Also, the close of the Andante is tailed by an unfamiliar and inspirational linking passage – mostly involving winds, and lasting almost two minutes – that leads to the solo flute declamation of Luther’s chorale Ein feste Burg. Unless my eyes are deceiving me, none of this is mentioned in the all-German booklet note. The performance is more dramatic and full-bodied than Yannick Nézet-Séguin’s artfully shaped production, while that of the Scottish Symphony is keenly attentive to the full range of weathers that we encounter during the course of this wonderful score, especially in the first movement, which, as with the Yannick Nézet-Séguin version, includes its long – and all-important – exposition repeat (bringing its playing time to sixteen minutes). Additionally, Manacorda favours singing string lines, something you’re aware of right from the Symphony’s opening bars. The recording has both amplitude and clarity, and I would count this as a classic Mendelssohn symphony release, not to be missed on any count.
–Rob Cowan