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ALLA BREVE

March 28, 1993|TIMOTHY MANGAN

MENDELSSOHN: Symphonies, Nos. 1-3; "Fingal's Cave" Overture. Orchester der Beethovenhalle Bonn, conducted by Dennis Russell Davies. MusicMasters Classics 01612-67088-2. MENDELSSOHN: Symphonies, Nos. 3 and 4. London Philharmonic, conducted by Franz Welser-Most. EMI Classics CDC 7 54263 2.

Davies' Mendelssohn set is remarkable for one thing only: It dispenses with the entire second half of the "Lobgesang" Symphony--i.e., with all of that bothersome 30-plus minutes of vocal music that gives the work its name. Though such a major omission automatically lands this recording in the discard pile, it might have ended up there anyway, considering the performances. Generally bland in texture and wimpy in projection, the playing reaches acceptability only in a sometimes delicate and finessed "Scottish" Symphony, but even that is no great shakes, for the orchestra seems a truly average ensemble and Davies--here, at least--an undemonstrative interpreter.

Welser-Most and the London Philharmonic, on the other hand, turn in magnificent performances. His facility with the orchestra is extraordinary; he plays it with the control of a soloist. Despite meticulous detailing, these readings never bog down or become precious, unfolding steadily and gracefully to robust peaks. EMI's production, glossy and spacious, is exactly wrong for Welser-Most's sensitive manner and transparent textures, but comes far from spoiling things.

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