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Mendelssohn was a skilled draughtsman and water colourist. He drew and painted all his life, and when he went to Scotlan and Italy in an era before the invetion of the camera, he fixed his memories by drawing his favourite sites. He also recorded his travels in music. He visited Scotland in 1829 when he was twenty years old and in Holyrood Castle, contemplating the chambers of Mary Queen of Scots, he found the beginning of his Scottish Symphony. Paradoxically, this most spontaneous and fluent of composers took thirteen years to finish the symphony.
Charles Munch and the BSO recorded famous performances of Felix Mendelssohn’s last three symphonies for RCA Victor that have remained available for more than fifty years, so it comes as a surprise that the composer’s music did not figure as prominently as one might think in the repertoire that Munch conducted with the BSO during his tenure as music director.
Munch left well-known recordings of the last three Mendelssohn symphonies with the BSO and of course conducted all three in concert, but not very often – No. 3, the “Scottish,” nine times in just one season (including tour performances); No. 4, the “Italian,” sixteen times in two seasons. He conducted No 5, the “Reformation,” more often than the others (twenty-two times in three seasons), and it is apparently the only work by Mendelssohn that he recorded with an orchestra other than the BSO.
Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy, Symphony No. 3 in A Minor, Op. 56, “Scottish”
1. Andante con moto
2. Vivace non troppo
4. Allegro vivacissimo
Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy, Symphony No. 4 in A Major, Op. 90, “Italian”
1. Allegro vivace
2. Andante con moto
Venue: Sanders Theatre, Harvard University (Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA)
Production date: 2011
Recording date: 1958 (Symphony No. 4), 1959 (Symphony No. 3)
Duration: 44 min
Production: © Boston Symphony Orchestra & WGBH Educational Foundation under exclusive licence to International Classical Artists Ltd