The Reformation Symphony of Mendelssohn is beautifully delivered. It is a compliment to the Midsummer Night's Dream music and a perfect portrait of Mendelssohn's best work. The Reformation Symphony, is of course his finest symphony. The orchestration is superb at Paul Paray's hand. The individual instruments shine with glory, the strings are as if they were a chorus. One almost expects Mendelssohn to have written a choral movement as Beethoven did in his Ninth Symphony. Paul Paray was as remarkable and perfectionist as Arturo Toscanini. His French background enabled him to gloss the symphonic and orchestral masterpieces he conducted with pure elegance.
The Miracle Symphony of Franz Joseph Haydn is a classical work, entitled so because Haydn may have been describing miracles in music, something semi-religious, something majestic, a tribute to the patrons he was sponsored by, who were themselves devout Catholics. The symphony is incredible, a truly outstanding piece of music in the Classical Era. It is not hard to understand why Mozart would admire Haydn and even imitate some of his stylings and improve upon them. The Miracle Symphony is just one example. Haydn is considered the father of the symphony, the first true composer to dedicate so much of his works on symphonic music. He is even credited to have written the first symphony. Among his great works are "The Oxford Symphony" "The Clock Symphony" "The Queen's Symphony" and the "London Symphony". In this recording, we get the best of Mendelssohn and of Haydn, true great masters of the orchestra, while treated superbly to the pure beauty and depth and meaning of the works by a fine conductor.
Nowhere on record is there such an extraordinarily delicate and serene performance of the Midsummer incidental music highlights. Paray approaches this as music for a stage production, not concert music, an approach that paid off in spades for him in his classic L'Arlesienne suites also on Mercury.
The tempi are swift, the playing lean, fluent, astonishingly fluid. The combination of amazing orchestral execution and the joy of virtuosity simply transports us into the Shakespearian realm in all its absorbing poetry and light. There has been nothing quite like it before or since and the spell it weaves on us makes us shake our heads in wonder as to how old Paray found all of this. It's nothing short of an artistic revelation.
The symphony, not a favorite of mine, is so beautifully proportioned, so well-attended, so dignified and dramatic, that I've always found every other performance of it pretty much a waste of time (even Toscanini). Paray actually makes me think it's Mendelssohn at his best...which it's not.
The Haydn was a great Paray specialty: audiences were so enchanted with it at Carnegie Hall, that reviewers reported whistling and courtly dancing in the lobby after concerts. The Detroit Symphony outdoes itself in replicating this scene with its virtuosity and idiomatic presentation, giving old Paray its all, despite a less-than-authentic edition. With interpetative inspiration like this, Haydn can survive any "foul papers."
A remarkable reissue that will please everyone for its historic importance and its utter impact as joyous music.