It’s not every evening that you get to hear a symphony by a fourteen-and-a-half year-old genius. And there’s an intriguing complication to this particular piece: it concerns the third movement – the Minuet. Mendelssohn came to London in 1829 when he was barely twenty. Due to perform this, his first symphony for full orchestra, he wrote to his parents, telling them, “Well, I looked over my symphony and – Lord! – the Minuet bored me to tears, and it was so monotonous and pleonastic. So, what I did was to take the Scherzo from my Octet for strings, and I added a few airy trumpets, and it sounded absolutely lovely.”
Well, in truth he did quite a lot more than just adding a few airy trumpets: he re-orchestrated it with brilliant writing for the winds, while retaining the mercurial lightness of the original version. It’s so good we thought you should hear this new version of the familiar Octet movement. But what about the original Minuet and the Trio? Is it really so bad and so boring as Mendelssohn would have us believe? If so, why, when he came to publish the symphony, did he put that version in the score and leave out the Scherzo? Well, as you might have guessed, you’re going to get two for the price of one.
I think both versions are really remarkable – as, indeed, is the whole symphony – and perhaps you would let us know at the end which version you prefer.