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Monday, April 8, 2019

Jan Lisiecki, Mendelssohn, Orpheus Chamber Orchestra

As I was on the net just now searching for the cover image I unfortunately came upon a headline that irritated me, not hard to do on a Monday morning I suppose. It was one of those opinions that I do not need at the moment, something about lots of technique and less of the something else. What does this matter to me about some concert and what or where I need not know? As you can see above I found a cover image and got out of the search results as quickly as I could. But the glance gave me a bitter taste. You look up somebody and get naught but a scurrilous dirt-dig, is that right? Not I suppose worth discussing today.

So forget that. Now I must say that today is somewhat auspicious as it marks my first review on here about the music of Mendelssohn. If I have not covered him before on these pages it was not for lack of appreciation. I've loved Mendelssohn's music ever since my first exposure to it. A recording of his "Italian" Symphony and then of his "Midsummer Night's Dream, " long ago, and both I still love dearly.

So this Jan Lisiecki disk (DGG 00289 4836471) was available for review and I jumped at the chance. It has not come about that some Mendelssohn disk has come along that seemed worth reviewing until now, it just so happens. But today I am happy to report in on the pianist's remarkable recording of Mendelssohn's two Piano Concertos plus a very nice selection of solo gems. I was quite ready for this program, as the LP versions of the Concertos I lived with since the early '70s were not as sterling as might be and the hearing of Lisiecki's dynamic whirlwind approach wakes me up completely to what is possible, what he manages to do with the music and so gives me a bird's ear view of it all..

I most certainly have no complaints about the amount of Mr. Lisiecki's technique. Thanks to his intelligent application of his abundance the music comes out as very exciting, for there is no lack of interpretive acumen. To be fair I have no idea what that headline meant I stumbled upon this morning, but why also should I care? In some ways it might as well be a totally random result, and so discount it we no doubt should, right?

For what is going on here is beyond reproach. His abilities make Mendelssohn's "17 Variations serieuses in D minor" a passage through electric dramatics, as he heightens contrast between the slow and the fast by his nimble acrobatics.  The same is true of all of it here. The concertos "pop" into the foreground by the relief his contrasts afford (and the conductorless Orpheus Chamber Orchestra only add to the kinesthetics with a sympathetic frisson. They are able and most definitely up for it all.).

All that can be said too for the "Rondo capriccioso," and the "Gondola Song" from the Songs without Words series. This it feels to me is how Mendelssohn's piano music should sound, or at least one way. There needs to be some robust fire to it all or else the lyricism is not quite tempered, or so it seems to me.

I am sure there must be other wonderful recordings of the concertos out there. I am quite willing however to give this  recording my top-drawer appreciation. The incredible magic of Mr. Lisiecki's full-barreled zestfulness wins the day, along with the bristling energy of the orchestra and the astounding solo piece performances. I will want to pull this one out often. I suspect you will too!

Super-bravo! If you do not know why Mendelssohn is a wonder this disk tells you in so many ways. Hip-hip-hurray!

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