The Strad Issue: March 2015
Description: Early Mendelssohn that might have been lifted by more inspiring playing
Musicians: Gabriele Pieranunzi, Daniela Cammarano (violin) Francesco Fiore (viola) Shana Downes (cello) Roberto Prosseda (piano)
Mendelssohn’s extraordinary precocity is amply demonstrated on this disc. Presented in counter-chronological order, it starts with the extraordinary Third Piano Quartet of 1825 – which has a class belying the mere 16 years of age of its creator – before the easy elegance of the C minor Quartet of three years earlier, and finally the world premiere recording of a D minor Largo and Allegro written when Mendelssohn was only 11 years old.
Aside from the disc’s historical curiosity value, one has to question its intrinsic worth. The D minor Largo may be remarkably capable for one so young but it is still stylistically conventional and does not yet demonstrate the profundity of a more experienced composer. With this in mind, the disc presents a bit of a ‘diminuendo’ from start to finish. It is not helped by the fact that the playing is so terribly conventional. There are some thoughtful ascending violin portamentos at the start of the third movement of the B minor Quartet but the performances are otherwise entirely unremarkable. In the end, the disc is nice enough (and Decca provides a clear and well-balanced recording from a technical point of view), but those searching for deeper music and more exciting playing will have to look elsewhere.