Tag Archives: Felix Mendelssohn

Beloved of the Gods

Dean Emmerson Dean Trio

Tinalley String Quartet

TPT: 68’08”

Melba MR301121


reviewed by Neville Cohn

Kegelstatt Trio (Mozart)

Papamina Suite (Mozart arranged Emmerson)

Quartet in A minor op 13 (Mendelssohn)

Around the world, innumerable recitals and concerts have marked the bicentenary of Felix Mendelssohn’s birth in 1809.

Earlier this year at the Perth International Arts Festival, his complete string quartets  were programmed. For many, perhaps most, of those who attended these performances, it was a musical journey of discovery that brought home emphatically that there is so very much more to Mendelssohn than some of his sentimental Songs without Words, elfin-type essays of one type or another, the hackneyed Wedding March and, of course, the ubiquitous  – and exquisite – Violin Concerto in E minor.

Played by the Tinalley String Quartet, Mendelssohn’s opus 13 in A minor makes compelling listening. The opening adagio – allegro vivace is given a model reading in which the composer’s musical argument is expounded in sometimes achingly beautiful terms.

Crown of this recording is the Intermezzo, a haunting little dance episode that is the quintessence of sadness that bring to mind those heartbreaking moments immediately after Rigoletto discovers that his daughter Gilda has been kidnapped; it’s a brief interlude of despair beyond despair. Here, the Tinalley musicians take up an interpretative position at the emotional epicentre of the music. In a finale that rivets the attention, the players, after a brief obeisance to the opening moments of the closing movement of of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, respond to the score in an intensely dramatic way.

Recording engineers: step forward and take a bow for your skill in magically capturing a performance of Mozart’s engaging Kegelstatt Trio on disc. It doesn’t happen very often that there is such fidelity in a recording that it sounds as if the performance is taking place ‘live’ in your lounge or wherever you happen to be listening. It is a joy to hear – and, happily, the performance is on a par with that.  So, too, does Stephen Emmerson’s arrangement for the same instrumentation – Brett Dean (viola), Paul Dean (clarinet), Stephen Emmerson (piano) – of a suite drawn from Mozart’s The Magic Flute.  It’s a recorded performance of great distinction. It’s a finely managed oscillation between good humour and deep emotion, a model of its kind that deserves to be heard by many. Bravo!

Neither of the composers represented on this disc saw their fortieth birthday. Imagine what riches the world was deprived of by their tragically early demise. Imagine, too, what might have issued from Mozart’s pen had he lived another year – another month! The same could be said of Mendelssohn.

W.A.Symphony Orchestra

Perth Concert Hall


reviewed by Neville Cohn

Felix Mendelssohn

Felix Mendelssohn


As almost everyone knows from the much-loved fairy tale, Sleeping Beauty can awaken only after she has been kissed by a handsome prince. But did you know there’s another Sleeping Beauty? She is not nearly as famous as the young lady in the fairy tale, of course. But she is no less important. In fact, she may even be MORE important than her somnolent counterpart.


She has a wondrous golden glow about her, especially when in the spotlight. And, unlike a number of her close relations, her neck has never been replaced. But unlike her cousin in the fairy tale, she doesn’t respond at all to the kiss of a prince. In fact, for this Sleeping Beauty to awaken, she needs to be stroked by a horsehair bow – and then she sings with a seductiveness that has ensured her fame ever since she came into the world in a workshop in Cremona, Italy in 1704.


Just the other day, there’s been coverage in the news about the oldest man in the world. He is 113 years old and lives in Britain but Sleeping Beauty is far older than that. In fact, she is more than THREE hundred years old but she looks and sounds considerably better than that British geriatric.


An audience that packed the Concert Hall almost to capacity at the weekend, saw just how beautiful this Sleeping Beauty looks. And when Isabelle Faust, to whom Sleeping Beauty is on loan from a German bank, stroked her with her bow, she sang with the sweetest, most silvery of voices. I dare say, though, that it might be her great age that caused her exquisite voice to sing unusually softly so that at times it was necessary to lean forward in one’s seat in the 17th row to catch every fine detail of the solo part of Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto in E minor. And apart from a less-than-assured opening moment, it was clear that the soloist is profoundly musical and technically adroit although her stage presence was curiously lacklustre. Faust was impressive in steering a faultless way through the cadenza – and trills were immaculately spun in the slow movement.


Although Mendelssohn wrote a number of concertos, it is this one that is far and away the most loved of them all. And it was good to hear this queen of concertos offered with such understanding on the part of the soloist. An earlier concerto for the violin is a juvenile effort of little moment. And a concerto for violin and piano soloists was recorded on the HMV label in the 1960s with Yehudi Menuhin and Gerald Moore as soloists. It’s sinking into deserved oblivion. And Mendelssohn’s two concertos for piano, like drooping aspidistra leaves, thoroughly deserve to disappear from the repertoire as well.


An orchestra is as good as its conductor – and when the baton is waved by a gifted musician, the W.A.Symphony Orchestra more often than not responds impressively and has done so at exceptional levels in recent years. But this was not always the case at the weekend where, too frequently at climaxes during Weber’s overture to Oberon, the brass section sounded uncharacteristically coarse – and one would have hoped for a more uniform tonal sheen from the strings. This playing was so out of character for the WASO that one wondered whether sufficient rehearsal time had been devoted to the program. Much the same could be said of Beethoven’s Symphony No 1.

W.A.Symphony Orchestra



Perth Concert Hall




reviewed by Neville Cohn



Both Felix Mendelssohn and the TB-riddled Frederic Chopin tumbled off the twig before they turned 40. But they were mighty quick off the starting block. As teenagers, they both scaled Olympus: Mendelssohn’s Octet, heard here only the other day, was written at 16 – and Chopin’s Piano Concerto No 1 was completed when he was a mere19.


Alexander Gavrylyuk, no slouch himself – he won the Horowitz International Piano Competition when he was all of 15 years old – dazzled in music by both  Chopin and Mendelssohn at the Concert Hall at the weekend.


His account of the Chopin concerto was a marvel of musicianship: an imperious opening statement which gave way to wondrously expansive treatment of much of the opening movement. The nocturne-like slow movement was a model of refined expressiveness – and in the finale, fearless, infallible fingers wrought wonders in articulating the concerto’s villainously intricate solo part.


An audience that filled stalls, galleries and choir stalls to near-capacity could not contain its enthusiasm and burst into wild applause before the final bars of the concerto were played – unprecedented at a Master Series concert.


There was a sensational response with Gavrylyuk essaying Vladimir Horowitz’s horrendously demanding arrangement of Mendelssohn’s Wedding March. Here, those oh-so-familiar phrases were re-visited with such grandeur and brilliance that many in the audience rose spontaneously to their feet in acknowledgment of such pianistic wizardry. What a wonderful contribution towards this bicentenary year of Mendelssohn’s birth in 1809.


As curtain raiser, we heard a smartly detailed account of the overture to Rossini’s opera The Italian Girl in Algiers and, after the interval, Schubert’s Symphony No 9, known as The Great.


Of considerable length, the Ninth, in the wrong hands, can so easily sound  interminable. There was not a hint of that in Oleg Caetani’s direction of the piece. Clearly identifying closely with the score, which he conducted from memory, Caetani set and maintained tempi that ensured buoyancy of momentum. Occasionally, there was a need for the brass section to rein in its muscle-flexing to provide a more tonally discreet contribution – but this is a minor reservation about an interpretation made meaningful by close attention to detail without losing sight of the grand sweep of the work.