Mendelssohn Concerto Recording, Baroque Style?

August 23, 2007 at 04:35 PM · Does anyone know of a baroque style mendelssohn violin concerto recording?

Replies (26)

August 23, 2007 at 05:09 PM · Huh?? Why in the world would you want that? If you're concerned about composers' intentions and what they heard in their day, that obviously ain't it with Mendelssohn. It's bad enough - for me - to hear so-called period style Bach. That said, I did hear on the radio a sort of "authentic" style Schumann 2nd from Roger No-tone - er, Norrington. It was awful! I know I'm opening a can of worms. So be it. I feel so strongly on this issue that only a long article in the future will do it justice. I hope to eventually write it and post it on my website. Compared to my feelings about so-called "period-performance", the issue of the shoulder rest is a trivial technicality. If I don't say a whole lot more here - I hope to take a break soon - I will, as I said, eventually. I'll leave with one thought: how odd it is that in classical music it's considered - in many circles - politically correct to be reactionary - which is what "period-performance" is, even if they have it accurate - which I don't think they do.

Ok - let the fur fly!

August 23, 2007 at 05:31 PM · I agree with Raphael. I think you could arguably have some sort of period performance of the piece which might involve a particular size orchestra and possibly some instruments not quite as modern as current ones (strings would use pure gut strings), but it certainly would not be a baroque period performance. John Eliot Gardiner has done an amazingly good set of the Beethoven symphonies in an historically-infomred/period performance manner, but you certainly would not mistake them for baroque-style period performances.

I do not share Pinchas Zukerman's view (and Raphael may share it) of period performance as "rubbish" (in the interest of full disclosure, I should say that one of my relatives, Wanda Landowska, was one of the most important advocates and popularizers of period performance). Nonetheless, I also do not think there is a particular magic to period performance. You can have a perfect period performance that I do not want to listen to because it does not move me or work for me. Indeed, I once asked a musician friend of mine who has recorded a number of early music cds who he preferred for the solo Bach, and he responded Casals and Menuhin. Go figure.

August 23, 2007 at 05:56 PM · Yes, let us all re-create the premiere of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony...

Brian, if you are interested in "Historically Informed" Mendelssohn, Barenreiter has an edition with both versions of the Op. 64. Also, you might want to find various Mendelssohn editions by, or even compositions of, Ferdinand David.

August 23, 2007 at 07:09 PM · Brian, the actual facts you need are: the baroque period is generally given an end date of around 1750; and Mendelssohn was born in 1809.

August 23, 2007 at 07:59 PM · This reminds me of those people who want to have an original instrument performance of Mahler symphonies. What do they want as conducted by Roger Norrington or maybe a reduced orchestration with the Hanover Band?

August 23, 2007 at 08:18 PM · Raphael wrote, "Huh?? Why in the world would you want that? If you're concerned about composers' intentions and what they heard in their day, that obviously ain't it with Mendelssohn. It's bad enough - for me - to hear so-called period style Bach."

Amen. Bravo!

August 23, 2007 at 10:24 PM · I think it is regarded that the Mendelssohn concerto was the transition to the romantic era in the concerto repertoire.

August 23, 2007 at 10:46 PM · I personally like the Bartok concerto played in a gregorian chant style myself. (I'm sorry...sarcasm couldn't be helped.)

August 23, 2007 at 10:50 PM · Mendelssohn is Romantic composer atypical of that period. If you want Baroque Mendelssohn, go find his early D-minor Violin Concerto - now that one can be played in a 'Baroque' manner. Perhaps Carmignola can be persuaded to play & record the Op 64 in a "Baroque manner" - then maybe I'll listen to it. Otherwise, I'm sticking to my top pick for Op 64 - Alfredo Campoli with the LPO under Sir Adrian Boult on a NLA Beulah label.

August 23, 2007 at 11:20 PM · OK, I have a recording of the Octet baroque style. Let me rephrase my question. Is there a recording of the concerto in that period style? Not exactly baroque.

August 23, 2007 at 11:30 PM · Some nice responses. Time for me to take a break. Happy fiddling all!

August 24, 2007 at 02:47 AM · Hey Brian,

Viktoria Mullova did exactly that in her recording with John Eliot Gardiner and the Orchestre Revolutionaire et Romantique. She tunes her violin down a bit, and uses vibrato sparingly as an ornament. It's definitely an interesting recording to listen to. The last movement is quite charming!

Here's a link to the CD on

August 24, 2007 at 04:44 AM · Heaven forbid! Great Scott man, you don't mean she used an early classical bow or gut strings? Less vibrato?! What sacrilege! What vile reactionary sentiment is this--and from someone so safely mainstream otherwise! Traitor! Report her to Mr. Klayman for immediate condemnation! :-b

August 24, 2007 at 09:32 AM · Or why not check out Monica Huggett's interesting recording. She plays it "kind-of" romantic but from the view of a baroque violinist.

August 24, 2007 at 11:54 AM · Hi,

All of that said, Brian, there is some ways to investigate the historical approach to this. Of course, one would use a modern bow of the Tourte-style for this kind of composition (both David and Joachim did).

Historically speaking, I did research on Joachim, and the setup for this would be a modern violin with very heavy gauge gut strings (with a plain gut E), a modern Tourte-style bow and a great deal of reflection on vibrato.

Your best bet into getting into the frame of mind would be to listen to the recordings of Joachim (who played with Mendelssohn and studied chamber music with him) to get a idea of the differences in concept of playing from the period.

Incidentally, I did not hear Mullova's recording, but I will look into it.


August 24, 2007 at 11:58 AM ·

August 24, 2007 at 11:54 AM · Well, before leaving, let me try to clear up a point or two...

Condemnation? From moi? Nah. Why should I have anything against such great artists as Monica McNugget, Christopher Hogwash, or Nicolas Hard-of-hearing? (Sorry - did I get those names wrong? I even used "Ye Olde Authentik Spell Checker" Or was that "Spell Caster"?) Sure, let's lower our pitch for Mendelssohn, even though even in the Baroque era ptich was not standardized. There are untouched organs from that period that are actually higher than 440! And a pre-Classical bow? Why not? Never mind that the hypermodernist Tourte invented his bow almost 30 years before Mendelssohn was born. And, btw, there really isn't THE Baroque, Classiscal, or transitional bow. Before Tourte, the bow was in a constant state of flux. After Tourte, not so much. I wonder why?

Like I said, to do full justice to my ideas will require a very long article from me, eventually. I'm thinking of calling it "Music and the Emperor's Clothes".

Now I really must be off. Got some dental work to catch up on. I just can't decide between an authentic, period barber/dentist, who promises to knock me out with whisky, and then pull my teeth with his largest pliers, or a transitional one who has a drill that goes 33 1/3 rpm's!

So, my dissenting friends, hang me in abstentia if you must. I only ask one favor: please use all-gut rope - and not too high a tension!


August 24, 2007 at 12:39 PM · Raphael - the A-415 crowd is looking for you. Time to go into hiding. During your dental work you could consider whether or not at that moment you'd rather be listening to some of your favorites, e.g., Monica, Christopher, Roger, and the rest.

August 25, 2007 at 01:03 AM · For the record, I think vibrato and glissandi are Norrington's real bugbears in 19th century repertoire-- not the bows. He's far too good a historian to make the mistake that Raphael suggests.

August 25, 2007 at 01:38 AM · Thankfully, it's not these historians that can move an audience - it is the performer's job. The unfortunate part is when an able performer listens to a historian who thinks no music of the 19th or 18th century should have vibrato or portamento.

August 25, 2007 at 09:18 AM · I'm sure many, if not most, historical performance experts are well aware that what they're doing is more post-modern than anything else. Recreation of how a piece might have sounded at a premiere is only the tip of the iceberg - and methods of interpretation really run the gamut.

April 14, 2008 at 06:25 AM · my school is doing bach e major concerto in a very romantic style. usually people use romanctic style on baroque and classical works. never heard a baroque style romantic piece

April 14, 2008 at 07:21 PM · Hello Brian, fellow Virginian. In full support of your intentions to study period performance, let me point out that playing Mendelssohn with baroque performance practices will not go over well with anyone. I assume you mean you'd like to pay special attention to performance practices during Mendelssohn's time.

I've always been taught by several teachers that in Mendelssohn you can be expressive, and forthcoming with vibrato. Funnily enough I've also been reminded time and time again that "this is not the Brahms concerto." Take that as you wish.

Don't forget, Mendelssohn wrote his concerto 55 yrs after Mozart's death.

Beethoven's 5th was written 12 yrs after mozart's death.

April 14, 2008 at 08:06 PM · "Don't forget, Mendelssohn wrote his concerto 55 yrs after Mozart's death.

Beethoven's 5th was written 12 yrs after mozart's death. ""

Nice sentiments since I still remember Beethoven 5's that sounded as if the conductor thought that Menndelsohn or Schumann must have written them. Some of them smart conductors.

April 14, 2008 at 08:14 PM · Jay - I daresay that the conductors who did Beethoven 5 as it had been written by Mendelsohn or Schumann were probably a bit nearer the mark than would be a conductor who thought it should be played baroque style.

April 15, 2008 at 12:31 PM · That's ridiculous, nobody plays beethoven baroque style, don't even go there.

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