Die Erste Walpurgisnacht
Kurt Masur is one of the greatest living Mendelssohn interpreters, and this collection of lesser known works from his famed tenure at the head of Mendelssohns own orchestra in Leipzig is an essential companion to the Brilliant Classics set of the composers complete symphonies conducted by Wolfgang Sawallisch. There is the late and little known Trumpet Overture, and two overtures that are more like The Hebrides in their painterly sensitivity to landscape. Edda Moser is on thrilling form as the soloist in the concert aria Infelice, which takes it's form and character from Beethoven's Ah perfido as a taut scena for a wronged heroine. The main work is the secular cantata Die erste Walpurgisnacht, which rides on the early Romantic wave of popularity for Gothic horror and drama, setting a text by Goethe which tells of a MayDay conflict between Christians and Druids, with the Christians portrayed as the forces of oppression: the 22 year old Mendelssohn was still culturally Jewish at this stage, rather than the Christian Establishment figure that he later became. As Gramophones reviewer remarked in 1995, "the performance itself positively seethes with lifeMasurs attentive ear guarantees a notable degree of clarity and precision. Furthermore, his excellent soloists and superb Leipzig Radio Chorus exhibit great stamina, and not a single hint of strain Infelice is again played with great gusto, with Edda Moser bemoaning her fictional fate with unnerving conviction."