The NZ orchestra plays competently but without distinction. The competition is considerable and everybody even remotely familiar with classical music knows it backwards. In the faster sections some of the strings are racing to catch up; the ethereal silkiness required to release the genius in the music is absent. The woodwind have a better time of it, their work in the scherzo lifting the general standard. The choirs and soloists are excellent.
Setting aside the bargain of getting the complete score on a budget label, the appeal of this disc lies in the inclusion of sections of text from the play. Mendelssohn was devoted to Shakespeare, and so it is important to occasionally hear the music in context. It doesn’t make the music any better, but the connection is much more than simply academic.
Emily Raymond’s Titania is the most convincing of the actors; she brings grace and style to the part. Tom Mison’s detached Oberon, on the other hand, sometimes sounds as if he’s reading it for the first time. Adrian Grove is characterful as Puck. The other actors vary considerably, often sounding arch in the way some actors do when performing “important” texts. Although the woodwinds sound clear enough, the overall recording of the orchestra seems a little woolly. That the actors and the musicians were recorded on separate occasions and in different places seems clear. The two acoustics are quite different.