A Mendelssohn premiere at the RFH

Mendelssohn wrote two piano concertos, so the London Premiere of his third piano concerto yesterday evening was of considerable interest. Of course it's a 'completion'. Mendelssohn left it in an unfinished state, and the Italian pianist Roberto Proseda noticed it in the Bodleian Library in Oxford. He was sufficiently interested to ask the Italian composer and conductor Marcello Bufalini to reconstruct it.

Mendelssohn composed the first two movements in draft form: they exist as a two-stave score with notes indicating which are piano and which orchestral sections. He orchestrated only the first eleven bars of the first movement. In places the piano part is entered in simplified form, but comparisons with similar sections elsewhere made it possible to judge the additions Mendelssohn intended to make. Bufalini's orchestration has the authentic Mendelssohn sound, and both movements sound entirely convincing.

The third movement was never composed: basic notes of the themes, unharmonised, are all that exist, meaning that 'reconstruction' was impossible. Rather than leave the first two movements to stand on their own, Bufalini has worked from these sketches to compose a final movement in what is effectively a pastiche of Mendelssohn's style. The result is more ordinary than the first two movments, though certainly Mendelssohnian in flavour: it sounds like the young Mendelssohn, but it worth having to round off the work.

Proseda played the work with skill and enthusiasm, bringing out the best in the music; the London Philharmonic Orchestra was conducted by Yannick Nézet-Séguin. Reconstructions or completions are always a little suspect, but as with Elgar's Third Symphony and Mahler's Tenth this makes a welcome addition to the repertory.

The other work of the evening was Brahms' Ein Deutsches Requiem. I wrote in June 2006 about hearing this in the ecclesiastical acoustic of Westminster Cathedral; in the Royal Festival Hall the sound was obviously much clearer, and in many ways preferable to the inevitable muddling of the orchestration in the Cathedral. There must have been some backstage nerves, because both soloists had to be replaced at short notice because of illness: Elizabeth Watts (soprano) and Stéphane Degout (baritone) stepped in. The performance didn't appear to suffer from this last-minute upheaval: both singers performed confidently, Watts in particular soaring gloriously after a slightly tentative start.

Posted: Sun - April 5, 2009 at 09:04 AM by Roger Wilmut          



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Published On: Mar 11, 2016 05:00 PM