Klassik  Sinfonische Musik
Christoph Poppen & Deutsche Radio Philharmonie Saarbrücken Kaiserslautern Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy: Symphonies Nos. 1–5 OC 709 CD
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FormatAudio CD
Ordering NumberOC 709
Release date05/03/2008
Players/ContributorsMusicians Composer
  • Mendelssohn Bartholdy, Felix

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      In 2007, the first CD of the Deutsche Radio Philharmonie under conductor Stanislaw Skrowaczewski was released. Now, the eagerly awaited first CD under the ensemble’s new principle conductor Christoph Poppen follows (the young orchestra unites the RSO Saarbrücken and the SWR RSO Kaiserslautern). Three CDs present the five symphonies of the composer once named by Schumann as “the Mozart of the 19th century”: Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy. While Symphony No. 1, which Mendelssohn com- hristoph oppen fi rst principle conductor of the Deutsche Radio Philharmonie posed in 1824 at the age of fifteen, is still firmly in the Viennese Classic style, Symphony No. 2 (“Hymn of Praise”) begins where Beethoven’s Ninth left off: texts from Luther’s translation of the Old Testament are set to music in a cantata-like manner. In the final movement of Symphony No. 5 (“Reformation Symphony”), the Luther chorale A mighty fortress is our God is heard. The famous Symphonies No. 3 (“Scottish”) and 4 (“Italian”) are full of impressions of foreign lands.

      Christoph Poppen, interviewed by Teresa Pieschacón Raphael
      (November 2007 in Saarbrücken)

      Mr. Poppen: Why have there been so few complete recordings of Mendelssohn’s symphonies?
      In my opinion, Mendelssohn still hasn’t found the place in the concert repertoire that he deserves. There are several reasons for this: Mendelssohn holds a special position in German Romanticism – which is to a certain extent permeated by an unfulfilled and often sorrowful yearning for the unattainable “blue flower”. His music is also filled with desire, but this leads in most cases to a fulfilled state of happiness. He was apparently really a happy person. And it is just this phenomenon that audiences have met with skepticism up to the present day. One often hears the allegation that his yearning – and thus his music – is not honest. I don’t believe that.

      A quite melancholic point of view…
      Why shouldn’t that be a model for art, i.e. that yearning can also be fulfilled? I think that should be one’s motto for life! By the way, there’s a statistic that shows that Mendelssohn is less frequently performed in Germany than in other countries. That probably has to do with the German attitude towards the Romantic – on the other hand, it is also a consequence of cultural policies during the Third Reich.

      Famous critic Eduard Hanslick said that even in the 19th century, the Wagnerians and anti-Semites were carrying out their “sorry business” of “hate and arrogance”.
      Yes. And the Third Reich simply continued this. But much has changed since then. I am not the only person who has constantly fought for Mendelssohn’s works. We owe him so much.

      How do the five symphonies differ from each other? What makes the first symphony, which Mendelssohn wrote in 1824, special?
      Of course, the first symphony, as the work of a fifteen-year-old, has a special place in the composer’s oeuvre. One clearly hears the influence of the Classic (Beethoven/Haydn!), but Mendelssohn finds his own personal language even here. When is this symphony ever performed in concert?

      The order in which the other four symphonies were written does not correspond to their numbering.
      Yes, that must be taken into account. The Reformation Symphony (designated No. 5) was composed in winter and spring of 1829/30 for the 300th anniversary in 1830 of the “Confessio Augustana” – the fundamental written declaration of Protestantism. But in the end, the anniversary was not celebrated and the work only experienced its premiere two years later.
      This was followed by the Italian (designated No. 4), which Mendelssohn began in 1830/31 in Rome and Naples, but which wasn’t performed until 1833 in London. Almost one decade later – around 1839/40 – he composed his Hymn of Praise (designated No. 2) for the 400th anniversary in 1840 of the invention of typography. In 1842, twelve years after his trip to the Scottish Highlands, he composed the Scottish (designated No. 3) from his remembrances – although he had made sketches for it at the time of his travels. If I ordered the symphonies purely according to the dates of their composition, it would have to be No. 1, No. 5, No. 4, No. 2 and No. 3.

      There are also different versions…
      Mendelssohn was very self-critical. He identified just as little with the Reformation Symphony as with the first version of the Italian – the version which is almost exclusively performed today. We first considered whether we should present Mendelssohn’s final revision of this symphony here, but apart from some highly interesting details, I honestly don’t find that this version is stronger than the “first shot”. Mendelssohn’s youthful, unpremeditated power simply has an especially energetic effect.

      Which symphony has the greatest impact on you?
      The fact that the two ‘secular’ symphonies have best established themselves in the concert repertoire is not amazing, seeing as they contain an immensely attractive dramatic power and a very effective virtuosity. But the Hymn of Praise, in which Mendelssohn relies on many approaches he had used in the Reformation Symphony, has the greatest dimensions. We have here this very strong, fulfilled yearning, which Mendelssohn expresses in the religious sense just as passionately as in the personal. And from the way he fuses Jewish elements with those of Christian chorales, we can almost conclude that he longed for a reconciliation of the great religions with each other.

      Translation: Elizabeth Gahbler

      Deutsche Radio Philharmonie Saarbrücken Kaiserslautern

      The Deutsche Radio Philharmonie (German radio philharmonic orchestra) launched its first season in September 2007. Its principal conductor is Christoph Poppen.

      The orchestra is the first to be formed through the fusion of two radio orchestras, and thus continues the traditions of two well-established institutions, the Rundfunk- Sinfonieorchester Saarbrücken (run by the SR, the Saarland broadcasting corporation) and the Rundfunkorchester Kaiserslautern (under the auspices of the south-west German SWR broadcasting corporation).

      The new orchestra is based in Saarbrücken and Kaiserslautern. With 114 musicians, it is one of the largest orchestras in the ARD, the German national public-service broadcaster, and is thus be able to offer a wider range of musical possibilities than either of its predecessor orchestras was able to do on its own. It will, then, be covering a highly diverse repertoire and offering unusual programmes.

      The Deutsche Radio Philharmonie Saarbrücken Kaiserslautern will be giving concerts above all in the Saarland, Luxembourg, and Rhineland-Palatinate. Its regular venues for the long-standing and highly successful subscription series will be the Congresshalle in Saarbrücken, the Fruchthalle in Kaiserslautern, and the studios of the Saarländischer Rundfunk in Saarbrücklen and the SWR in Kaiserslautern.

      The orchestra will also be appearing on the national stage. In its first season, guest appearances will be made at the “Alte Oper” in Frankfurt, the “Philharmonie im Gasteig” in Munich, the “Philharmonie” in Essen, and the “RheinVokal” festival in Koblenz.

      The Deutsche Radio Philharmonie’s concerts will be broadcast on SR2 Kulturradio and on SWR2, and many of its appearances will be aired throughout Europe under the Franco-German broadcasting cooperation.

      The season features world-famous stars such as Maxim Vengerov, Sharon Kam and Julia Fischer, and provides also a forum for younger talent in a special series of concerts. A number of “familiar faces” will also be putting in appearances: the first guest conductor Stanislaw Skrowaczewski, the former principal conductor Günther Herbig, and “specialists” such as Reinhard Goebel and Arturo Tamayo.

      Family concerts, hosted concerts and meetings with artists will provide quite new ways of presenting music. Series such as “Musik für junge Ohren”, “Musikspielplatz” and concert projects run in conjunction with schools, meanwhile, will be addressed specifically to younger audiences.

      Tracklist hide

      hideCD 1
      • Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy
        The Symphonies

        Symphony No. 1 C minor op. 11
        • 1.Allegro di molto09:55
        • 2.Andante06:13
        • 3.Minuetto. Allegro molto06:12
        • 4.Allegro con fuoco08:20
      • Symphony No. 4 A major op. 90 (“Italian”)
        • 5.Allegro vivace10:27
        • 6.Andante con moto06:07
        • 7.Con moto moderato06:23
        • 8.Saltarello. Presto05:34
      • Total:59:11
      moreCD 2
      • Schlusschor “Ihr Völker”
        • Total:01:04:02
        moreCD 3
        • Symphony No. 3 A minor op. 56 (“Scottish”)
          • 1.Andante con moto – Allegro un poco agitato16:03
          • 2.Vivace non troppo04:19
          • 3.Adagio09:53
          • 4.Allegro vivacissimo09:58
        • Symphony No. 5 D minor op. 107 (“Reformation Symphony”)
          • 5.Andante – Allegro con fuoco11:15
          • 6.Allegro vivace05:39
          • 7.Andante . . . .04:24
          • 8.Choral: “Ein’ feste Burg ist unser Gott!” Andante con moto – Allegro maestoso07:29
        • Total:01:09:00