Mendelssohn / Brahms, Min Chung
For a truly versatile performance at Gran Teatro La Fenice in Venice, German-born conductor of South Korean descent Min Chung and the Haydn Orchestra of Bolzano and Trento perform two remarkable instrumental works by Felix Mendelssohn and Johannes Brahms. Even though he is still relatively young, Chung has established his reputation in both the operatic and the orchestral music contexts across the world. Aside from serving as the Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra’s associate conductor, he keeps a busy international schedule that also includes opera performances, such as Madama Butterfly by Giacomo Puccini at the Korean National Opera or La Traviata by Giuseppe Verdi at Teatro Politeama Greco in Lecce, Italy. At La Fenice, Chung demonstrates his talents yet again.
The programme begins with Mendelssohn’s Symphony No 4 in A Major, Op 90. Also known as ‘Italiana’ or ‘The Italian’, it was conceived while the composer was on a tour across Europe from 1829 to 1831. The sheer joy and happiness Mendelssohn experienced while enjoying the unique Italian way of life seeped into his score, and he himself declared that his Fourth Symphony was his ‘jolliest’. The debut performance by the London Philharmonic Society took place on 13 May 1833 in the British capital. Mendelssohn undertook several revisions since then, with the final version, first published in 1851, becoming standard. The first movement overflows with joy, while the second one is more pensive, inspired by a mourning procession, and the third and fourth pick up the pace with dance motifs from Roman saltarello and Neapolitan tarantella.
Brahms’s Serenade No 1, Op 11, is the second and final piece in the programme. It serves as an early example of his efforts in orchestral composition. Originally scored for a nine-piece ensemble of woodwinds and strings, Brahms continually expanded it until he arrived at the version for full orchestra from December 1859. The inaugural performance on 3 March 1860 in Hannover was a success, driving the audience to spontaneous applause and shouts of approval. The variety of its six movements make the Serenade a mesmerising, enjoyable experience. Under Min Chung’s skilled direction, the two 19th-century rarities sound fresh and exciting.