‘Mendelssohn in Birmingham’ is an exciting new recording project with the CBSO and its Principal Guest Conductor, Edward Gardner. It celebrates Mendelssohn’s special relationship with the city’s Town Hall and will feature the complete symphonies recorded there. It was a venue much loved by Mendelssohn and saw him conduct many of his own works there, including premieres. ‘Mendelssohn in Birmingham’ also encompasses a major concert series at the Town Hall which will run alongside these recordings.

Inspiration for The Hebrides, recorded here in Vol. 1, sprang from experiencing the seas and landscapes of the Scottish Western Isles. The famous wave-like repeated patterns of its opening set the scene for a vivid work that has been a template for composers of ‘sea’ music ever since. Symphony No. 5 ‘Reformation’ was completed in 1832, and although the last of his numbered symphonies, it was the second to be composed. Typically for Mendelssohn, he had doubts about its quality and soon wrote it off. This self-criticism is highly exaggerated of what is a finely crafted and original work. Similarly, despite the success of its premiere in 1833, Mendelssohn significantly revised and eventually abandoned his ‘Italian’ Symphony, No. 4. Fortunately the original score from the premiere was recovered and published, posthumously, in 1851. The symphony is relatively short and its pervasive lightness of touch lends it a unique character and charm.

About Mendelssohn in Birmingham Vol. 1


Edward Gardner, conductor
City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra


Mendelssohn Hebrides Overture, Op. 26
Mendelssohn Symhony No. 5 in D major, Op. 107 'Reformation'
Mendelssohn Symphony No. 4 in A major, Op. 90 'Italian'

4 Stars

Unsurprisingly, the quality of the playing here is very high. I particularly enjoyed the timpani roars in The Hebrides Overture. In the Italian Symphony, Gardner coaxes elegant phrasing from the strings...

BBC Music Magazine

Release Date: 3 February 2014
Record Label: Chandos
Duration: 65 minutes