In 1840 Robert Schumann called Felix Mendelssohn “the Mozart of the nineteenth century, the most brilliant musician to penetrate the contradictions of the age and the first to reconcile them.” The two works on this recording, the Concerto for piano and strings in A minor and Double Concerto for piano, violin and orchestra in D minor, were written by the teenage Mendelssohn as he approached musical maturity, a growth spurt that would result in the Octet for strings and Midsummer Night’s Dream Overture. Fortepianist Kristian Bezuidenhout is joined by violinist Gottfried von der Goltz and the Freiburger Barockorchester in the two concertos.
Mendelssohn wrote the Concerto for piano and strings for his sister Fanny when he was 13, but it’s hardly the work of a teenage whiz kid. The concerto has plenty of exuberance, but at its core (particularly in the middle-movement Adagio) it has a mature heart. Bezuidenhout, playing a modern copy of an 1824 Graf piano, is at his best in the first movement cadenza and plays with a feather-light delicacy in the Adagio. The Double Concerto is a marvelous find. It’s melodic and has more than a touch of melancholy, yet it never flirts with sentimentality. Once again, it’s the slow movement that leaves the biggest impression with the two soloists making sweet chamber music over a delicate orchestral accompaniment.
You can’t beat Bezuidenhout’s performances and von der Goltz is a more than able partner in the Double Concerto. The always reliable Freiburger Barockorchester are fine accompanists, sure there string tone is a touch harsh in the tutti passages but it’s tempered by the overall sweetness in other passages.