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  Classical Editor Rob Barnett    


 

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Felix MENDELSSOHN (1809Ė1847)
Sechs Spruche Op. 79 (1843-46) [9:44]
Hear my Prayer (1844) [10:38]
Beati Mortui Op. 115, No. 1 (1833) [2:54]
Die deutsche Liturgie (1846) [6:26]
Ave Maria Op. 23, No. 2 (1830) [6:40]
100th Psalm (1842) [4:02]
Laudate Pueri Op. 39, No. 2 (1830) [5:37]
Magnificat Op. 69, No. 3 (1847) [8.37]
Choir of Trinity College, Cambridge/Richard Marlow
rec. 14-17 January 2000, Chapel of Trinity College, Cambridge
CHANDOS CHAN 10363 [74:03]


By one of those strange chances of CD publishing, the Choir of Trinity College Cambridge, under Richard Marlow and St. Johnís College, Cambridge, under David Hill, both have discs of Mendelssohnís sacred choral music in the catalogue. Though both discs were released recently, this one from Trinity College was actually recorded in 2000.
 
The Choir of Trinity College is mixed; it uses female sopranos and altos. This gives the upper lines a warm, flexible sound and combined with Marlowís approach to Mendelssohn is rather Romantic. The choir respond well to his direction and give some fine, shapely performances.
 
Though Mendelssohn was a devout Lutheran Protestant - albeit one with Jewish forebears -† he was flexible when it came to writing sacred music. This disc includes some of his best and best known pieces and they range from settings of Latin texts, through music written for the Lutheran church and even canticle settings written specifically for Anglican Evensong.
 
Trinity open their disc with the Sechs Spruche, a cycle of six pieces which cover the entire churchís year, each chorus is associated with a particular festival. This is Mendelssohn at his most mature, writing fluid polyphonic lines. Trinity shape this music beautifully.
 
Hear my prayer is one of Mendelssohnís most popular sacred pieces. Mendelssohn composed it at the behest of the English translator of many of his works, but the final work was dedicated to the musical director of the Berlin Royal Opera. Though traditionally associated with a boy treble, Rachel Bennett sings the solo part here and she certainly gives the boys a run for their money. Whilst not quite as thrilling a Quintin Beer on the St. Johnís disc, Bennett wins over Beer because of her beautiful phrasing and intelligent musical performance.
 
Beati Mortui, written for male voice chorus, is closer to the chorlied than to sacred choral music. It is an early work that was not published until after Mendelssohnís death. Smoothly homophonic, it receives a fine performance here.
 
Ave Maria is another of Mendelssohnís best known pieces. His Op. 23 choruses were written in direct response to his first visit to the Vatican City. It is written for soloists, chorus and organ but the bulk of the solo work falls to Trinityís mellifluous tenor soloist. †Laudate pueri is similarly early; written for womenís voices, it is one of the most attractive of Mendelssohnís Latin pieces and receives a fresh performance from the women of Trinity.
 
The Deutsche Liturgie is a late work; one that Mendelssohn left incomplete at his death. These lovely pieces were intended for use within the Lutheran church. The Three Psalms Op. 78 are amongst Mendelssohnís mature works in the genre and rank as one of his masterpieces. In them he left behind his dependence on baroque models and produced some of his most fluid, romantic music utilising contrasting blocks of vocal colour and varying the tonal weight from full eight-part choir to soloists. Trinity give strong performances of these pieces and I could recommend this disc for the performance of these works alone.
 
Mendelssohnís last completed choral works were the Three Choruses Op. 69, which comprise a Magnificat, Nunc Dimittis and setting of the 100th Psalm, all intended for use within the Church of England. Trinity complete their disc with a performance of the Magnificat notable for the richness of it vocal textures.
 
Mendelssohnís sacred choral music tends to get overshadowed by that of Brahms and by Mendelssohnís own works in other genres. This highly recommendable disc brings his sacred music to the fore in fine, flexible performances from Richard Marlow and choir.
 
Robert Hugill
 

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