PETER MAAG is conducting Mozart, one of his specialties, with the National Symphony Orchestra this week, and that may console patrons who regret the absence of another specialty, Mendelssohn, from the program. Maag is a versatile conductor, and as long as he comforts us with Mozart, we should also let him show off a bit with Richard Strauss.
Meanwhile, those who need a quick Maag-Mendelssohn fix can find what they need on a new compact disc (Denon 33C37-7564) that contains Mendelssohn's enchanting incidental music to "A Midsummer Night's Dream." The recording is about as international as you can get, with a Swiss conductor and a Japanese orchestra, chorus and soloists performing German music inspired by and including the English words of William Shakespeare. But it all works well enough to put this recording near the top of the 20 currently available.
The orchestra, the Tokyo Metropolitan Symphony, is only 21 years old, but Denon's notes (translated from the Japanese) inform us that it is considered the second-best in Japan. Technically, it sounds approximately on a level with the NSO -- if anything, a bit more disciplined. The Japanese singers handle the English words as well as the English singers on Andre Previn's splendid recording, which may remain the preferred one for many listeners.
The chief advantage of this disc (beyond Denon's fine digital sound) is Maag's deft baton work. It would all be perfect (well, almost) if the horn sound in the Nocturne had a more moody, German flavor. (What's in a name? Japanese French horns seem to sound more French than German French horns, and who can blame them?) Overall, the result is good enough to make one hope that Maag will bring along the "Midsummer Night's Dream" the next time he comes to Washington.
PETER MAAG -- Mendelssohn: "A Midsummer Night's Dream" incidental music (Denon compact disc 33C37-7564); conducting the National Symphony Orchestra in a program of Mozart and Richard Strauss, Saturday at 8:30 and Tuesday at 7 at the Kennedy Center Concert Hall.