A New Reading of Mendelssohn’s Early Symphonies
It is simply breathtaking to think what the twelve-year-old Felix Mendelssohn had already achieved in the field of composition. In a letter of 1821 his mother reported, »Nobody can imagine this free, genial nature. His productivity is really to be admired. During the past year he has written two operas, in addition a five-part psalm for the Akademie, six symphonies in the manner of early composers, without wind instruments, some sonatas, etc.« Mendelssohn composed these first six string symphonies (of a total of twelve) while receiving instruction from Carl Friedrich Zelter, and they most certainly were performed during the matinées presented every two weeks at his parents’ home. According to the contemporary witness Adolf Bernhard Marx, they were accompanied by Felix »mostly or throughout in the thoroughbass manner.« And this is the starting point for the musicians of the L’Orfeo Baroque Orchestra under their conductor Michi Gaigg: a historical fortepiano as if by nature forms the thoroughbass »in the manner of early composers.« At long last Michi Gaigg has found just the right sound guise for these early strokes of genius. »The musicians of L’Orfeo here too once again know what it takes to captivate the listener with their playing, their effective dynamic shadings, their fresh tempi, and the historically informed sound« (klassik. com of the Gluck Symphonies).