"Never was there a more complete triumph - never a more thorough and speedy recognition of a great work of art." This was the response of the critic in the London Times to the wildly successful premiere of Felix Mendelssohn's Elias in 1846. Hans-Christoph Rademann began his tenure as Principal Conductor of the RIAS Chamber Choir with this groundbreaking oratorio. After eight productive and successful years, his final concert in July 2015 also featured the work.
One of the finest trombonists to emerge from the bebop era, Kai Winding was always to an extent overshadowed by J.J. Johnson, although they co-led one of the most popular jazz groups of the mid-'50s. Born in Denmark, Winding emigrated to the U.S. with his family when he was 12. He had short stints with the orchestras of Alvino Rey and Sonny Dunham, and played in a service band in the Coast Guard for three years. Winding's first burst of fame occurred during his year with Stan Kenton's Orchestra (1946-1947), during which his phrasing influenced and was adopted by the other trombonists, leading to a permanent change in the Kenton sound. He also participated in some early bop sessions, played with Tadd Dameron (1948-1949), and was on one of the Miles Davis' nonet's famous recording sessions…
The first two of the three string quartets of Mendelssohn's Op. 44 were recorded by the Cherubini Quartett in 1990. With its transparent textures, elegant phrasing, and refined execution, the ensemble is temperamentally suited to this music, which seems to require those qualities above others. While Mendelssohn acquired many advanced compositional techniques from studying Beethoven's quartets, he never presumed to plumb the master's spiritual depths, and preferred instead to emulate the Classical gentility and poise of Haydn and Mozart. The String Quartet No. 3 in D major, Op. 44/1, is predominantly exuberant and optimistic, and the Cherubini Quartett delivers it in a light, effervescent style, and only occasionally touches on the deeper passions that Mendelssohn prized in this work. More serious and fervid in expression, the String Quartet No. 4 in E minor, Op. 44/2, evokes the tense emotions of eighteenth century Sturm und Drang. The Cherubini Quartett renders the work with a darker coloration and richer tone, but these shadings neither interfere with the clarity of the parts nor weigh down Mendelssohn's fleet lines.
The choice of repertoire is more or less predictable. There are no lesser known arias, and Gott sei Dank they have been grouped by opera but, within the operas, not in the order of appearance. The ordering of the operas seems haphazard, too. "What an ungrateful nit-picker!" I can hear readers mumble. "Of course they have decided the order to achieve as much variety as possible". But I am not so sure. Why, in that case, start the recital, after the Zauberflöte overture with two arias in a row sung by Russell Braun?