After recently hearing (and thoroughly enjoying) this team's Respighi disc on CPO (see below), I didn't hesitate to acquire their newest offering, Mendelssohn's complete String Symphonies (plus the early Violin Concerto) on BR Klassic. And I'm just as impressed with this as I am with their Respighi.
The Munich Radio Orchestra, under its leader Henry Raudales, bring such life and freshness to these works, it's as if hearing them for the very first time. Precision is key, but with imaginative touches and musical phrasing infusing every bar. Dynamic contrasts and clean textures predominate. They have the forces necessary to bring plenty of vigor when called for, and also delicate pianissimos, keeping the listener engaged every moment.
Normally I wouldn't even think of digesting all 12 of these in one sitting. Yet that is exactly what I ended up doing. Such was the musical pleasure I was experiencing, I couldn't turn them off. Thus I listened to all 3 discs consecutively, concluding with the dramatic (and rather Mozartian) early Violin Concerto in d-minor. Raudales assumes the violin solo role here and proves to be a marvelous player, bringing much musical purpose and maturity to this early work. No, it's still not the famous e-minor Concerto, but it is certainly not to be discredited either. The finale in particular is infectious.
Fortunately, the recorded sound is excellent. The acoustic is reverberant, but fairly well controlled. It provides just enough ambience and fullness to lend the orchestra plenty of warmth without swamping it. Focus is secure and articulation is crisp and clean. And the orchestral playing is exceptionally good - at all times alert, stylish and musical.
Raudales is a real treasure. He is one of the few present-day conductors who exhibits real imagination and musical insight, and has the ability to inspire his players to make music sound new and fresh. Nothing here sounds remotely like it's just another ho-hum sight-reading session for a recording project. Far from it. This orchestra is kept constantly on its toes and spontaneity springs forth everywhere.
Highly recommended, especially for those who think these early, "lesser" works aren't really worth their time. You will be proven wrong! And richly rewarded.
The same can be said for their earlier Respighi disc, on a splendid SACD from CPO. Imaginative touches pervade every musical phrase, along with clean textures and strong characterization. The Birds, in particular, is one of the very best on record, and the sound throughout is superb.
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