The London Symphony Orchestra is taking part in a brand new partnership to launch the inaugural phase of Classical Live, the first and only initiative offering up-to-date recordings on Google Play Music.
Through the global reach of Google Play Music, Classical Live aims to broaden the audience for classical recordings by expanding the base of fans who will discover these new recordings through both digital downloads and streaming subscription in all 58 countries where the service is available, at play.google.com.
Mendelssohn’s Symphony No 4 was inspired by the composer’s tour of Italy in the autumn of 1830. Having visited Venice, Florence and Rome, Mendelssohn began work on a symphony which would celebrate the sights and sounds of the south. The result was a work which is full of the colour and atmosphere of Italy, described by the composer himself as ‘the jolliest piece I’ve written so far.’
Sir John Eliot Gardiner says of the piece, 'Mendelssohn threw everything, in terms of virtuosity and risk-taking, at the Italian Symphony and it’s remained incredibly popular... Following in his footsteps the violins and the violas stand for this performance. It gives a different type of dynamism and energy... it means that the fiddles are freer in the way that they attack the extremely virtuosic lines and it gives a tremendous sense of occasion to the music making.'
Reviews of the concert performance praised Sir John Eliot Gardiner and the LSO’s exhilarating interpretation of the symphony.
***** ‘The finale a whirling, impossibly fast ride from explosive beginning to punchy finish. The LSO players rose to it all.’ The Guardian
***** ‘The orchestral textures were clarified to startling effect.’ The Times
**** ‘The performance of Mendelssohn’s “Italian” Symphony No 4 was like a joyous high-speed rail journey around the country, taking in sun-soaked landscapes, an upbeat pilgrims’ march, and a scalding saltarello that truly felt like a dance to the death.’ Financial Times
**** ‘This reading of the Italian exploited the exhilarating athleticism of the first movement and the frenzied Neapolitan dance rhythms of the saltarello finale.’ Evening Standard
Also available on Classical Live, Google Play is Mendelssohn’s Symphony No 5, written in 1830 to commemorate the 300th anniversary of the Augsberg confession – a seminal event in the Protestant Reformation. Allusions to the symphony’s title, ‘Reformation’ and inspiration can be heard throughout the music itself; the Dresden Amen is cited by the strings in the first movement whilst the finale is based on Martin Luther’s well-known chorale Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott (‘A Mighty Fortress is Our God’).
Coupled with this are two of Mendelssohn’s overtures, Calm Sea and Prosperous Voyage and Ruy Blas, both of which were inspired by literary works. Calm Sea and Prosperous Voyage, based on two short poems by Goethe, depicts the journey of sailors at sea with a still adagio opening ultimately giving way to a triumphant homecoming. Completing the album, the overture Ruy Blas was commissioned by the Leipzig Theatre as an overture to Victor Hugo’s tragic drama of the same name.
The concerts of Mendelssohn Symphony No 5 were received with great acclaim.
***** ‘The overture to Ruy Blas was ebullient but nuanced… The LSO players rose to it all – this was no imitation period band, but a modern orchestra responding brilliantly and unapologetically to a famously demanding conductor.’ The Guardian
***** ‘Felix Mendelssohn, the cosseted wunderkind celebrated for his elegance and limpidity, was remade as a Gothic hero in John Eliot Gardiner’s exhilarating performance of the Ruy Blas overture… The orchestral textures were clarified to startling effect.’ The Times
**** ‘Gardiner’s Mendelssohn with the LSO packs a surprisingly hefty punch.’ Evening Standard
‘Gardiner reserved vibrato for the faster section [of Calm Sea and Prosperous Voyage], which erupted with bubbling, vivacious energy...The fearsome power which Gardiner and the LSO wrought in the [Fifth Symphony’s] first movement’s development was carried over into the scherzo, instilling the latter with considerable vigour and weight… There was no mistaking the fervour and grandeur of the fugal development of the Lutheran chorale "Ein feste Burg" in the finale, concluding the performance with impressive gravitas.’ Classical Source