November 2006

Mendelssohn - Discoveries
Roberto Prosseda, piano
Decca 476 3038
Format: CD
Released: 2005

by Rad Bennett

Musical Performance ****
Recording Quality ****
Overall Enjoyment ***1/2

To achieve success, striving artists have often grabbed onto a gimmick that ends up benefiting everyone. Often the ploy is discovering and programming obscure works by a well-known composer. That is what has happened here. Felix Mendelssohn is a household name to music lovers, but every piece on this disc is a recording premiere. How’s that? Most of the works here are student compositions written when Mendelssohn was 12-20 years old. They are charming and show the promise of things to come, but they are also quite forgettable. Fortunately, there are a few mature works here, including Mendelssohn’s own arrangement of the Scherzo, Notturno, and Wedding March from his miraculous Midsummer Night’s Dream music.

Roberto Prosseda proves to be a superb interpreter of this music. He has sure technique and an innate feeling for the lyricism to be found in every passage. There is not an artistic misstep. Prosseda plays the student exercises as if they were the greatest music ever written. When he gets to the Midsummer Night’s Dream music, the level of composition becomes worthy of his level of performance, and the results are magic.

Prosseda plays a Borgato piano hand-crafted in Italy. It is a sonorous instrument, with well-focused lower notes, a transparent midrange, and a bright top range. Its sound has been caught in a recording that is clean, perfectly balanced, and clear. Prosseda has recorded more early Mendelssohn for Decca (475 5277, a disc called Mendelssohn Rarities), and he plays just as well on that disc as he does on this one. However, it would be good to hear him in better-known, mature Mendelssohn, such as the piano concertos or Songs Without Words.