There are many things to cherish in this new recording of Mendelssohn’s 3rd and 5th symphonies. The Kammerakademie Potsdam with conductor Antonello Manacorda seem to have performed these works a lot. Like their instalment of the Schubert symphonies (which rightfully received an Echo award) these performances are vivid and alert.

The conductor, Antonello Manacorda (Photo: Copyright Nikolaj Lund, Antonello Manacorda official website)

When it comes to the mystifying Scottish symphony, Manacorda seems to balance his approach between the historically informed and the romantic tradition. While his orchestra follows a period style sound, the singing lines are often long and expressive. The same is true for the tempo: while generally fast, they are not as fast as most historically informed recordings. Manacorda knows when to let the phrases breathe more freely and some of his interpretative choices, like the 1st movement exposition repeat, seem right. The depth and wide sound stage of the recording add to the mystery of this work, making this a very atmospheric performance indeed.

As for the Reformation symphony, it receives an aptly dramatic reading and comes with an extra bonus: like the recent Yanick Nezet-Seguin cycle of all 5 symphonies, it includes extra passages restored by Christopher Hogwood, which apparently Mendelssohn himself excised after a trial performance of the work. This extra material is more obvious in the end of the Andante movement: wind and brass instruments form a kind of interlude that leads to the famous Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott theme of the finale. This makes a great impact, not only because of the unfamiliarity of the score, but mainly because Manacorda seems to really believe in it. In addition, Manacorda opts for contrasting tempo swifts between passages, which accentuate the main theme and show the structure of the last movement more clearly.

There have been quite a few recent recordings of these works, but Manacorda nails them both. His readings have more depth and more commitment than recent historically-influenced releases. Atmosphere is the key word here — and indeed Mendelssohn’s works are all about setting the right tone, something that Manacorda and the excellent Kammerakademie Potsdam demonstrate in this recording.

Mendelssohn, Symphonies no. 3 & 5
Antonello Manacorda (conductor) / Kammerakademie Potsdam
Sony Classical

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