A Midsummer Night's Dream (Leppard)
It is clear from his well-written (but poorly proof-read) sleeve note that Raymond Leppard has a sensitively Mendelssohnian responsiveness to verbal ideas. Both in aesthetic theory and in the musical practice evidenced on this record, such Dream interpretation sounds deeply convincing. A further analysis of latent content might be interesting. Assuming for example that the Mozartean echoes are more than mere coincidental music, why does the disturbed harmony of “desir” from “Soave sia il vento” strike so very responsive a chord, in the same key and similar scoring, throughout the young Mendelssohn's overture? Its subtly-shaded treatment here is typical of this fine performance, which excels in displaying the matching material and texture of the three main dream-worlds; airy gauze, earthy homespun, hunting corduroy. But there is an arguably damaging snag. Mendelssohn was responding to the German text, which (like Bottom) sounds most natural when untranslated. Reversion to English somewhat distorts the sense, scansion and tempo of the sung words, despite the beautiful tone and diction of Elizabeth Gale and Ann Murray. Squeezing “You spotted snakes with” into the speed and rhythm of “Bunte Schlangen”, or even “So good night” into those of “Gute Nacht”, makes the deft word-setting sound inept. Again, the spoken dialogue (in whatever language) should not have been silently omitted from a disc subtitled “enregistrement intégral”. It is a pity that these linguistic aspects should be even mildly disappointing when all the interpreters are so verbally gifted and the wordless music is so eloquently communicated.
The Musical Times, Feb. 1979 (p. 131) © the estate of eric sams