Philharmonia Orchestra - A Midsummer Night's Dream

Philharmonia Orchestra - A Midsummer Night's Dream

Catalogue Code: 782062

Barcode: 5050457820626

Release Date: 22 Aug 2011

When one thinks of Mozart, of whom compositions written at the age of six have come down to us, a seventeen-old composer seems a comparative greybeard. But listening to the Midsummer Night's Dream Overture - for such was Mendelssohn's age when he wrote it, one may well wonder if this is not the most remarkable issue of a young mind in the whole history of music. Even Mozart at that age could hardly show anything to rival it. The remainder of the incidental music, partly based on the Overture, was completed some time later - in 1843. The exposition of the Overture contains a slow introduction (A), a light string passage in E minor (B), a lively E major them (C), a lyrical second subject in B major and a motive (E) suggesting the braying of asses. C also rounds off both exposition and recapitulation, but is omitted from the body of the latter. The coda has B, a tranquil modification of C and finally A. The Scherzo follows Act I, snatches from it also accompanying a dialogue between Puck and a Fairy in Act II, Scene 1. (This contains the well-known lines beginning, "Over hill, over dale..."). It is in sonata form, and has a second subject which, though not sharply differentiated from the rest, is rather simpler in style. "Ye Spotted Snakes" occurs at the beginning of Act II, Scene 2. After a short orchestral introduction ("Enter TITANIA with her TRAIN"), Titania speaks the lines - "Come, now a roundel and a fairy song;... Sing me now asleep' Then to your offices, and let me rest." Then follows the song: - First Fairy. "Ye spotted snakes with double tongue, etc.". Mendelssohn takes a slight liberty with the text by way of repetitions occurring between the Second Fairy's verse and the following chorus. Shortly after the end of this song, Lysander and Hermia enter, and presently lie down to sleep in the wood. Scene 2 ends with Hermia's awakening and the relating of her dream to Lysander: a serpent was at her breast and Lysander "Sat smiling at his cruel prey". But Lysander is no longer there. Puck has charmed him, and caused him, on awakening, to go in search of Helena. Hermia's speech ends "Either death or you I'll find immediately" and her departure in search of Lysander marks the end of this Scene. The Intermezzo is played at this point. The words "Hermia seeks Lysander, and loses herself in the wood" are written in the score, and are the key to this agitated piece of music. Towards the end, the curtain rises on the sleeping Titania (a phrase for soli 'cellos). The final Allegro section depicts the entry of the rustic players. Act II concludes with both pairs of lovers lying down to sleep, while Puck, with his herbal ministrations, ensures a happy disentanglement on their awakening. The Nocturne follows. Theseus and Hippolyta have been married in Act IV: the famous Wedding March is the ensuing entr'acte. The E minor opening of the main theme (C major) is a bold idea of which familiarity has perhaps robbed us of our appreciation. At the end of "Pyramus and Thisbe" in Act V, Bottom offers an epilogue or a Bergomask dance between two of the company. Theseus chooses the latter, and this is the Rüpeltanz, or Dance of the Clowns. It is an adaptation of theme E from the Overture, and has a degree of thematic similarity to the conclusion of the Intermezzo. After this dance, Theseus commands "Lovers, to bed; 'tis almost fairy-time," and he and his retinue leave the stage to the main theme of the Wedding March. At their exit darkness falls and the March grows gradually softer, concluding with the E minor opening mentioned above. But this time, instead of a continuation in C major, E minor prevails as B makes an unexpected entry, coinciding with that of Puck - an effective dramatic stroke. These details are not recorded here, but may be of interest to those who have not had the pleasure of hearing the music in its stage setting. It will be remembered that B forms the first part of the Ove

1. A Midsummer Night's Dream: Overture, Op. 21
2. A Midsummer Night's Dream: Scherzo, Op. 61, No. 1
3. A Midsummer Night's Dream: Ye Spotted Snakes, Op. 61, No. 3
4. A Midsummer Night's Dream: Intermezzo, Op. 61, No. 5
5. A Midsummer Night's Dream: Nocturne, Op. 61, No. 7
6. A Midsummer Night's Dream: Wedding March, Op. 61, No. 9
7. A Midsummer Night's Dream: Dance Of The Clowns, Op. 61, No. 11
8. A Midsummer Night's Dream: Finale, Op. 61, No. 12