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** 1/2 MENDELSSOHN: Incidental Music for "A Midsummer Night's Dream" and more. Kenneth Branagh, narrator. Sylvia McNair, soprano. Berlin Philharmonic. Claudio Abbado, conductor. (Sony)

May 25, 1997|Chris Pasles

Shakespearean actor and film director Kenneth Branagh provides the main draw here. He resourcefully takes the parts of Puck, Robin, Oberon, Titania and others for portions of the text Mendelssohn underscored with music. The recording also includes the Overture and four other purely orchestral selections from the incidental music. Abbado provides a very refined, clean, European take on it all. But the "Dream" cries out for more robust characterization than he delivers. McNair's light soprano serves adequately. Nothing goes wrong here or in the additional "Italian" Symphony, but there isn't much interpretive insight either. Sonics are very good. An unexpected bonus is the translation of Shakespeare's verse into French by no less than Victor Hugo.

*

Albums are rated on a scale of one star (poor), two stars (fair), three stars (good) and four stars (excellent).

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