Mendelssohn / Scotch Symphony & Fingal’s Cave / Dorati – Our Shootout Winner from 2011

The sound of this Super Hot Stamper side one came as a bit of a surprise to us. It’s so BIG and RICH — this is a Mercury? It sounds like a good Decca/ London.

It’s actually instead a bit of a hybrid. The recording takes place in a famous London hall with superb acoustics (Walthamstow Town Hall) in which the Mercury recording team merely set up their usual three mics and recorded to half-inch tape. Gone is the dryness and upper-midrange nasality of so many Mercury’s; no doubt that sound was caused in large part by the halls in which they were recorded.

This is some Tubey Magical Decca orchestral sound from 1956, here on a Colorback early Mercury pressing. Go figure.

Side One

With a grade of A++ this side was KILLER. A little smear but so rich, musical and enjoyable you will find yourself lost in the performance. The London Symphony is hard to beat.

Side Two

A+ for the fourth movement of the symphony, with more smear than we heard on side one. Fingal’s Cave Overture sounds better though, more like side one. We gave it an A++ grade.

This is a truly wonderful copy of one of the rarest and best Mercury recordings.


Wikipedia’s Entry for the “Scotch” Symphony

The Symphony No. 3 in A minor, Op. 56, known as the “Scottish” Symphony, is a work by Felix Mendelssohn. It is thought that a painting on a Scotland trip made by Mendelssohn had inspired the 33-year-old composer, especially the opening theme of the first movement.

The emotional scope of the work is wide, consisting of a grand first movement, a joyous second movement of possibly Scottish folk music, a slow movement maintaining an apparent struggle between love and fate, and a finale that takes its components from Scottish folk dance. A peculiarity lies in the coda of the finale, where he introduces a complete new German majestic theme to close the work in a completely different manner from the rest of the finale.

It was conceived as early as 1829 during Mendelssohn’s trip to Scotland, but was not completed until 1842, and was not published in full score until the following year. The symphony was dedicated to Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom. Its premiere took place on 3 March 1842 in Leipzig.

The work is scored for an orchestra consisting of two flutes, two oboes, two clarinets in B flat and A, two bassoons, two horns in C and A, two horns in E, F and C, two trumpets in D, timpani, and strings. It is in four movements:

Andante con moto – Allegro un poco agitato

Vivace non troppo

Adagio

Allegro vivacissimo – Allegro maestoso assai

The lively second movement is melodically and rhythmically in the style of Scottish folk music, although no direct quotations have been identified.

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