October 2007

Mendelssohn - Piano Concertos Nos. 1 & 2; Capriccio brillant; Serenade and Allegro giocoso; Rondo brillant
Ragna Schirmer, piano; Saarbrücken Radio Symphony Orchestra, Günther Herbig cond.
Berlin Classics 0017752BC
Format: CD
Released: 2007

by Richard Freed

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

We don’t hear much of Mendelssohn’s music for piano and orchestra in our concert halls these days: on rare occasions the G minor Concerto, more rarely still the Capriccio brillant, and that’s about it. Although Mendelssohn himself was one of the most admired pianists of his time, his own concerted works for his own instrument remain for the most part consigned to that sector of the repertory we encounter by way of recordings. There is actually more of it than is represented on the present release -- an earlier, broadly proportioned concerto for piano and strings, a similarly proportioned concerto for piano, violin and orchestra, and a pair for two pianos and orchestra, all of which have been recorded more than once, though Mendelssohn regarded them as juvenilia -- but this package comprises everything in this category which the composer himself offered to the public, and its appeal goes well beyond the level of mere convenience.

Ragna Schirmer, who from the blurb in the booklet appears to be about 30, has already made a strong impression on a half-dozen CDs of works ranging from Bach and Haydn to Corigliano and Schnittke. She has a splendid feeling for Mendelssohn, delivering the goods with both brilliance and real affection that the music demands, and the seasoned Günther Herbig is an excellent partner, keeping his fine orchestra engaged with the soloist on the same levels of vitality, warmth and the sort of give-and-take that can never be taken for granted. The well-balanced sound puts it all in the most appealing perspective.