There's so staggeringly much music in this big box that if you manage to play or even read through all the titles, you'll be surprised to notice one or two puzzling omissions: for one thing, one of Mendelssohn's most popular overtures, The Fair Melusina. Also, in his overview of the overtures, Abbado adds the sparkling Overture for Wind Music written by the teenage Mendelssohn. That would have been nice as well (but then Flor comes up with the Die Hochzeit des Comacho Overture from Mendelssohn's unsung opera of the same name). And maybe we could do without "Leise zieht durch mein Gemüt," orchestrations by Siegfried Matthus of seven songs and Songs without Words--not that the orchestrations aren't tasteful or apposite. But how can one gainsay a collection that amasses just about every jot and tittle of notation that Mendelssohn committed to paper for orchestral forces--and does it all very, very well?
First, the symphonies: Among complete versions, major competition comes from Abbado (which I know) and Ashkenazy. Flor offers fully the equal of Abbado's celebrated traversal, I believe. The Third and Fourth, central to the canon, are given top-notch, finely recorded treatment, while the Second, just as well done as by Abbado, is better recorded; there is no breakup of sound as I experience in those big climaxes in the Abbado set.
The First Symphony, too, is given a smart and sprightly reading. Maybe only in the Fifth Symphony, not a make-or-break item anyway, is there some slight overemphasis in the stentorian last movement, some unnecessary decelerando and other species of uncalled for rubato. Here, such affectations are slight, but they are accentuated in the Ruy Blas Overture. Most conductors supply a slight accelerando in the bright coda that crowns this work. Instead, Claus Peter Flor slows down. Why? What's gained? Zip, unfortunately.
It's then that you start noting other slight instances of intervention that aren't exactly called for--finicky phrasing in the first movement of the Italian Symphony, a tendency to hold back in the First Piano Concertos when the soloist, Sergei Edelman, seems to champ at the bit. (There's much more unanimity of approach in the Second Concerto and the two Violin Concertos, and these are fine performances, I think, whereas I can't recommend the First Piano Concertos when Hough and Thibaudet have such a perfect handle on this slight but appealing work.)
On the other hand, I have never heard so exciting a performance of Mendelssohn's most visionary choral work, Die Erste Walpurgisnacht, and I have no complaints whatever about A Midsummer Night's Dream either. With Lucia Popp in radiant form and fairy spirits clearly abroad in the air, how could one?
So if I have reservations--and I do, including the sound, which is consistently very fine but more resonant than would be the norm in recording these works today--they are slight given the many rewards awaiting anyone who plunges into this inexpensive box of goodies.