- A Midsummer Night's Dream, overture, Op. 21
- Symphony No. 2 in B flat major ("Lobgesang", "Hymn of Praise"), Op. 52
It's only fitting that a newly arrived music director of Leipzig's Gewandhaus Orchestra should begin his tenure with a salute to one of the key composers in that city's history: Felix Mendelssohn. Recorded live in September 2005, Riccardo Chailly's inaugural concert pays due tribute to the past in this way but also portends an auspicious future for the maestro in his new position. Beginning with the tried and true, he leads the orchestra in a marvelously playful and colorful performance of the Midsummer Night's Dream overture -- one of the most extraordinary works ever composed by a teenager. This recording takes Mendelssohn's original 1826 manuscript as a source and claims to correct many errors in the published versions; perhaps this is responsible for some of the performance's freshness and transparency. Filling out the program in monumental style is Mendelssohn's hour-long Lobgesang (Hymn of Praise), a "Symphony-Cantata" that is sometimes identified as the composer's Symphony No. 2. Here, too, the performers revert to the earliest version of the work -- as performed in 1840, rather than as published in 1841 -- but in any form, it's a particularly appropriate work to revive for a big occasion, since Mendelssohn wrote it for Leipzig's public celebration of the 400th anniversary of Gutenberg's invention of the printing press. Riffing on Beethoven's Ninth through a sequence of symphonic movements that lead to an extended finale with chorus and vocal soloists, the Lobgesang can't help but make a grand and inspiring impression, especially when it's played by the hometown team. Maestro Chailly seems to have received a warm welcome from his new orchestra, and judging from their performance on this occasion, the collaboration will surely be one to watch.