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Stephen Francis Vasta
MusicWeb International, June 2013

The dramatic performance, directed by troupe member David Timson, is excellent, with the actors bringing off their multiple impersonations in a variety of accents, timbres, and inflections.

The music is also well served. In the Overture, James Judd maintains a light touch at a brisk tempo, and draws transparent sounds from the fluttering strings.

Save in a spacious Nocturne, Judd maintains a similar motility and lightness throughout the performance…This is…a performance that draws such fetching contrasts of timbre and texture, and so vividly projects the sheer theatre of the piece.

The two songs are nicely turned. The women’s chorus, warm in tone and clear in texture, is ideal. The soloists, Jenny Wollerman and Pepe Becker, have markedly distinct timbres…yet they mesh beautifully in duet.

…the recorded sound is quite good—the winds, especially, register with striking depth and warmth. © 2013 MusicWeb International Read complete review

Kara Dahl Russell
The WSCL Blog, February 2011

While this CD is not for everyone’s taste, as it includes spoken word, it interweaves Mendelssohn’s music with text from Shakespeare’s play to give us the full measure of the composer’s intention and vision, putting the music in the perspective of the verse, and including the songs. Ultimately, I found this charming, and I think this CD has a real niche as specialty programming, and especially has a perfect use: to introduce children to the music and the play—the music in full, and the play in a much shortened form. If this is left on hand for a child, it is bound to excite interest in seeing the full works on stage and in concert.

Scott Noriega
Fanfare, January 2011

At the age of only 17, Mendelssohn produced the Overture to A Midsummer Night’s Dream, op. 21. As amazing as this may be, it is equally impressive that when he wrote the rest of the incidental music some decade-and-a-half later, he was able to recapture the spirit of his younger self so vividly, so exactly. Because this music is so often performed as a concert piece, though, we sometimes forget that it is indeed incidental music, written to accompany the spoken word. While there are ample recordings of just the music alone, there are fewer performances of the entire melodrama, and while many of these performances choose to use a single narrator to enact all of the roles (for example, a very fine performance by Seiji Ozawa and the Boston Symphony Orchestra with Dame Judi Dench narrating, on Deutsche Grammophon 439897), the one here has a handful of actors who take on anywhere from two to four roles each. There is something highly convincing about this approach, perhaps because it is performed in the manner that Mendelssohn intended it to be. And though the acting at first seemed to me overdramatic in certain instances, upon repeated listenings the comical aspects, especially, became more apparent. Musically speaking, there is a wonderful sense of youthful energy and sprightliness. James Judd doesn’t overindulge himself; rather he seems to let the music just be. The lighter textures that he keeps help delineate many of the interesting inner voices, and allow splashes of instrumental color that are inherent in Mendelssohn’s orchestration to pop out. All in all, I found myself listening over and over with newfound enthusiasm… the performance here goes to the top of my list of those that include the text. The sound on the disc is perfectly suited to the lighter sounds of this music, only becoming more reverberant when the speakers enter. If one wanted only one recording of the piece, or wanted to add another performance to one’s collection, this is a prime candidate for either. Once again, Naxos produces a winner.

Lawrence Hansen
American Record Guide, November 2010

A sturdy, solid, competent rendering of Mendelssohn’s lovely score, unexceptional in every way. It’s intertwined with enough of the text from the play to create a coherent narrative and set the incidental music in context. So you’re getting and hour and a quarter of the best of Mendelssohn and Shakespeare.

To read complete review, please visit American Record Guide online.

Edward Greenfield
Gramophone, October 2010

Anyone who doubts the virtuosity and refinement of the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra should hear these splendid performances under James Judd. The Overture sets the pattern with its crisply articulated, well-sprung fairy music and its often brassy contrasts, not least on Bottom’s hilarious “hee-haws”. The brief coda for strings offers a heavenly conclusion. Other purely orchestral pieces are also well done, notably the Scherzo with equally clear articulation, and the Nocturne with its ravishing horn solo (soloist unnamed). The vocal items are just as well done, with the two sopranos, Jenny Wollerman and Pepe Becker, bright and fresh-toned, joined in some numbers by the excellent Varsity Voices.

Roger Nichols
BBC Music Magazine, October 2010

The NZSO is more than respectable…[the chorus and soloists] all respond with becoming lightness and charm to this extraordinary music.

Barney Zwartz
The Age, September 2010

Budget label Naxos has been one of the most inventive for years, and this charming CD of Mendelssohn's incidental music for Shakespeare's Midsummer Night's Dream is a good example. The famous overture he composed at 17 and the rest 15 years later, including the much-loved wedding march. The remaining music deserves hearing: a fairies' march, intermezzo, nocturne, funeral march, dance of the clowns and two songs. It doesn't nearly fill a CD but the rest is taken up with relevant or favourite excerpts from the play. Deftly done by the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra and James Judd. Perfect for the car. Key track The delightful duet Ye Spotted Snakes. Quintessential Mendelssohn.

Ralph Moore
MusicWeb International, September 2010

...this Naxos issue...has a unique advantage in that it gives us more of the play than any other recording; not just mere excerpts but all the melodramas—the musical accompaniments which punctuate the spoken verse. At 77 minutes, it is the most complete version available...An assembly of young British actors, directed by David Timson (who also very ably plays both Bottom and Theseus), provides variety and characterisation rather than relying upon the talents of one Big Name actor...Judd and his New Zealanders perform the Big Tune numbers with wit, warmth and brio; the Wedding March is ebullient, the donkey’s braying in the Bergomasque suitably raucous, the timpani in the Fairies’ March charmingly piquant., July 2010

…this is a great deal more of Mendelssohn’s music for A Midsummer Night’s Dream than is usually heard, and cast director David Timson gets as much enthusiasm from his players (Tom Mison, Adrian Grove, Emily Raymond, Anne-Marie Piazza, Gunnar Cauthery, Peter Kenny and Timson himself) as Judd gets from his…Judd has given us a well-thought-out, thoroughly lovely and highly engaging one.

Balaam’s Music, July 2010

MENDELSSOHN, Felix: Midsummer Night’s Dream(A) (Sung in English) (Wollerman, Becker, Varsity Voices, Nota Bene Choir, New Zealand Symphony, Judd) 8.570794
BUTTERWORTH, G.: Songs from A Shropshire Lad / Folk Songs from Sussex (English Song, Vol. 20) (Williams, Burnside) 8.572426

…A Midsummer Night’s Dream…music is wonderful !

Ian Burnside…accompanies Roderick Williams in a disc of Songs by George Butterworth, a wonderful composer cut down in his prime in the First World War. Another English composer who deserves to be better-known is Cyril Scott, and his three sonatas for Violin and piano make up an enjoyable disc from Clare Howick and Sophie Rahman.

Other rarities to emerge this months include Cimarosa’s Requiem, Casella’s Second Symphony, Franz Schmidt’s third, and Havergal Brian’s Eleventh and Fifteenth. Piano music on disc from Ferdinand Ries (Beethoven’s student and assistant), Anton Rubinstein, and finally, one of Arensky’s Piano Pieces and Etudes.

Lovers of the Clarinet will be pleased to see a coupling of Copland’s Concerto (one of my faves) with a Concerto by Robert Aldridge, of whom I for one, have never heard, but it’s said to be “a direct descendant of the Copland”. If it has anything approaching the haunting, magical atmospher of the Copland, it’ll be a treat!

David Denton
David's Review Corner, July 2010

Those who know Mendelssohn’s Midsummer Night’s Dream from the oft played concert excerpts will have a pleasant surprise hearing the complete score. The overture came from his teenage years after he had seen Shakespeare’s play with his sister, Fanny. He composed for piano duet a descriptive overture they could play together, and it was that score later orchestrated that brought him to public attention. Sixteen years passed before he was asked by the King of Prussia to write the complete incidental music for a Court production of the play. On the present disc seven actors add linking narrative to place the music in context. Of course in such a lengthy overture Mendelssohn had already created his view of the play and the characters. It was in a fairy world, much of the music of gossamer quality. The conductor, James Judd, only goes part of the way with that view, adding much more weight to the performance than we normally hear, the many passages of dancing woodwind played with a solid presence. Mendelssohn asks for two solo voices and a small vocal group, Judd keeping the voices pushing forward through the lullaby and showing a similar urgency elsewhere. Even the Wedding March is taken at a sprightly tempo, for this is also a performance of vivacity, the singers Jenny Wollerman and Pepe Becker also urged through ‘Ye Spotted Snakes’. It all adds up to a very different performance to other ‘complete’ recordings. Then Naxos moved to the UK for British actors that were well-versed in Shakespeare. It was played out in an acoustic very different to the music. Nothing too elaborate in the sections of the play that were chosen, but it helpfully places the incidental music in the context of the play.

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