Friday, March 9, 2018

Mendelssohn in London

No. 273 of the ongoing ITYWLTMT series of audio montages, which can be found in our archives at

Last year around this time, we shared a podcast that I’d titled “Beethoven in Berlin”, where I spent some time identifying major Berlin orchestras, and featured a pair of legendary Berlin-based conductors, Ferenc Fricsay and Herbert von Karajan.

Not to be outdone, the United Kingdom and the city of London in particular is the home of several world-class ensembles, from chamber orchestras to large-scale Symphonies. Two of these are featured in today’s podcast which features two of Felix Mendelssohn’s most popular symphonic works.

Borrowing from an overview of London Orchestras I found on the web, the UK’s foremost musical pioneer with an extraordinary recording legacy, the Philharmonia Orchestra leads the field for its quality of playing and for its innovative approach to audience development, residencies, music education and the use of new technologies in reaching a global audience.

Dating back to its inception as a studio vehicle for EMI’s classical recordings, the orchestra was once helmed by Karajan, Otto Klemperer and a host of British conductors who guested at its podium on a multitude of recording projects. Today’s coupling of Sir Adrian Boult, Philharmonia and the late American violinist Michael Rabin proposes a crisp and near-reference performance of the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto in E Minor, with the right amount of schmaltz.

The London Symphony Orchestra is widely regarded as one of the world's leading orchestras and is renowned for its world-class performances, its energetic and ground-breaking education and community programme, LSO Discovery. The LSO is also famous for its record and film recordings, which include John Williams’ soundtracks for the 'Star Wars' films.

At its Barbican home in the City, the LSO promotes more concerts than any other orchestra in London, and its recording label, LSO Live, is the most successful of its kind. The Orchestra's family of soloists and conductors is second to none and past chief conductors have included Sir Colin Davis, Valery Gergiev and, most recently, Sir Simon Rattle. From 1971 to 1987, Claudio Abbado occupied the role of Principal Guest Conductor and later Principal Conductor. From that long association, a number of “complete cycles” were brought to disk, including the compete Mandelssohn symphonies, from which I retained the Scottish symphony for today’s podcast.

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