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Thread: Favorite recordings: Mendelssohn chamber music

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    Senior Member flamencosketches's Avatar
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    Default Favorite recordings: Mendelssohn chamber music

    Hello, friends. I recently discovered the greatness that is Felix Mendelssohn's two piano trios. I got a CD with them played by the Trio Wanderer, a French ensemble, on Harmonia Mundi. It's great, would recommend! Outside of that, it appears the Florestan Trio has also recorded them, and that's an ensemble who is great in everything they do.

    Outside of that, my knowledge of Mendelssohn's chamber music is nil. I have heard his Octet a couple of times and really enjoyed it, and now I would like to get my hands on a good recording. It's been recorded many times, by many ensembles I am not familiar with at all–Hausmusik London, the ASMF Chamber Ensemble, the Wiener Oktett, etc. Are there one or two recordings which stand out over the rest? In other words, do you have a favorite?

    Beyond these major works, Mendelssohn also wrote two string quintets and a handful of quartets. I feel like it may be in my best interest to get my hands on all of the quartets, which appear to fit on two or three discs. Are there any good complete sets out there?

    Thanks in advance to everyone who participates in this thread. Who has been listening to Mendelssohn chamber music lately?

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    Senior Member Allegro Con Brio's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by flamencosketches View Post
    Hello, friends. I recently discovered the greatness that is Felix Mendelssohn's two piano trios. I got a CD with them played by the Trio Wanderer, a French ensemble, on Harmonia Mundi. It's great, would recommend! Outside of that, it appears the Florestan Trio has also recorded them, and that's an ensemble who is great in everything they do.

    Outside of that, my knowledge of Mendelssohn's chamber music is nil. I have heard his Octet a couple of times and really enjoyed it, and now I would like to get my hands on a good recording. It's been recorded many times, by many ensembles I am not familiar with at all–Hausmusik London, the ASMF Chamber Ensemble, the Wiener Oktett, etc. Are there one or two recordings which stand out over the rest? In other words, do you have a favorite?

    Beyond these major works, Mendelssohn also wrote two string quintets and a handful of quartets. I feel like it may be in my best interest to get my hands on all of the quartets, which appear to fit on two or three discs. Are there any good complete sets out there?

    Thanks in advance to everyone who participates in this thread. Who has been listening to Mendelssohn chamber music lately?
    Mendelssohn's chamber music is indeed wonderful. Though no works he wrote have really knocked my socks off, he is a consistently brilliant and effervescent composer who's always good for a shot of joy when I need it. The piano trios and quartets are, I believe, a tad underappreciated compared to the symphonies. Last spring, I saw a university ensemble play a movement from the first piano trio at a chamber concert, and I could really tell that they relished the joyful youthfulness in the music. As far as recordings, I am limited in knowledge of that area as well, but I can recommend one of the miraculous String Octet (possibly my favorite composition of his), written when he was just 18 years old - Jascha Heifetz on lead violin, accompanied by Gregor Piatigorsky, William Primrose, and other prestigious musicians. It's very fast throughout, but for me, that's how Mendelssohn needs to be played! Here it is:


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    Senior Member wkasimer's Avatar
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    No idea about complete sets of his chamber music. There's one on Brilliant, but I don't know the players.

    For the Octet, if you want HIP, the recording by L'Archibudelli is fantastic:

    mendelssoh_larchibudelli.jpg

    Hausmusik is also excellent, and since it's coupled with the quintets and one of the quartets, it's a bargain if you buy it used on Amazon:

    mendelssohn.jpg

    For modern instruments, there are lots of choices; my favorite is the combined Smetana and Janacek Quartets:

    mendelssohn2.jpg

    There are actually two recordings with these groups, but the other one is buried in a DG set devoted to the Janacek Quartet:

    janacek.jpg

    For the quartets, again there are lots of good choices, but I favor the Pacifica Quartet:

    mendelssohn_pacifica.jpg

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    Senior Member D Smith's Avatar
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    Ditto Pacifica for the quartets ^^ The Doric Quartet also has a first volume out of the quartets which is equally as great.


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    Over the years, I've returned most to Mendelssohn's two Piano Trios, then to his 6 String Quartets (esp. no. 6), String Quintet no. 2, 2 Violin Sonatas, and Octet, and less so to the chamber music that he composed in his early teens--the 3 Piano Quartets, Piano Sextet, and Clarinet & Viola Sonatas.

    I. For the piano trios, there are many excellent recordings, and it's hard to go wrong here. Personally, I've most liked the 1990 recording by the lesser known but exceptional Trio de Barcelona on Harmonia Mundi, who also have very good digital sound.

    https://www.allmusic.com/album/felix...6-mw0001806133
    https://www.amazon.com/Piano-Trios-O.../dp/B000007MXW

    The Vienna Piano Trio is first rate, too, on Nimbus: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TQKD...mrdwXebXRrJcPU

    I've also liked the underrated Golub-Kaplan-Carr Trio, who are a bit more romantic in their approach:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DD5P...hDxMThsUdIXIl4
    https://www.amazon.com/Mendelssohn-T...sr=1-2-catcorr

    For my audiophile pick, I'd choose the Fischer-Müller-Schott-Gilad Trio on hybrid SACD: https://www.amazon.com/Piano-Trios-N...s=music&sr=1-1.

    Of course, there's also the Beaux Arts Trio, Trio Wanderer, & many others; plus some excellent period instrument recordings.

    II. As for Mendelssohn's 6 String Quartets, I'd most recommend the complete set from the Gewandhaus Quartett on NCA. They offer refined, virtuosic playing that is thoroughly idiomatic, considering that the Gewandhaus players come out of the Leipzig Conservatory tradition that Mendelssohn created. In addition, the complete sets from the Melos, Pacifica, and Coull String Quartets are excellent, too, or if you want more tonal heft (which I don't overly recommend in Mendelssohn), the discount set by Quatour Ysaÿe.

    I also see that the Artemis Quartet has recorded three of the six quartets, including no. 6 (on 2 CDs), which Mendelssohn composed shortly after the unexpected death of his beloved sister, Fanny. The 2 CDs were recorded shortly after the very talented violinist, Vineta Sareika joined the group in 2014 (replacing Natalia Prishepenko as their 1st violinist), and before the quartet lost their violist tragically & their fine cellist, Eckart Runge, who left in 2019: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nKtSUKOqp3M. Actually, the Artemis recording may be even better than the Gewandhaus Quartett, but it's not a complete set: https://www.amazon.com/Mendelssohn-S...s=music&sr=1-4

    Gewandhaus Quartett (digital, hybrid SACD)
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0rD-TKTw_4E
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I32EreUK-xc

    Melos Quartett (analogue)
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1si8...4F05666DA9C9BD

    Coull Quartet (digital)
    https://www.amazon.com/Complete-Stri.../dp/B000002ZFV

    Pacifica Quartet (digital)
    https://www.amazon.com/Mendelssohn-C...0WJ92CJGK5PAX4

    As you can see, there are many excellent recordings to choose from.

    III. For the violin sonatas, I've owned only one recording of these works--a DG CD from violinist Shlomo Mintz and pianist Paul Ostrovsky, which I've liked well enough that I've never felt the need to seek out any other: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4khT...gdh4J1MbUrK4zw

    IV. As for Mendelssohn's more youthful Octet, the 1978 analogue recording by the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields Chamber Ensemble is first rate: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UnbV4PgEJuQ. It comes coupled with Mendelssohn's String Quintet No. 2, Op. 87: https://www.amazon.com/Mendelssohn-O...s=music&sr=1-6. There's also an older recording from the Smetana & Janacek Quartets on Supraphon that is very good, too (EDIT: I see that wkasimer likewise mentions this recording favorably): https://www.amazon.com/Mendelssohn-O...s=music&sr=1-1. While, on period instruments, I'd recommend Hausmusik, led by Monica Huggett (EDIT: I've not heard the L'Archibudelli/Smithsonian Chamber Players recording that wkasimer mentions, but would imagine it's very good, & possibly preferable): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fanlihk6E0k.

    V. For the chamber music that Mendelssohn composed in his youth (between the ages of 13-16), the following 3 CD compilation of performances by the Atlantis Ensemble on period instruments is good:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z9bU...RQhnSe-cwjXLgg
    https://www.amazon.com/Young-Felix-M...s=music&sr=1-3.

    However, if you want modern instruments, the Leipziger Klavierquartett is excellent in the F minor Piano Quartet (coupled with Jadassohn & Schumann piano quartets) on Querstand, or for a complete set of the 3 Piano Quartets, I'd strongly recommend Domus: https://www.amazon.com/Mendelssohn-P...s=music&sr=1-1.

    Hope that helps.
    Last edited by Josquin13; Mar-02-2020 at 07:50.

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