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Felix MENDELSSOHN (1809-1847)
Verleih’ uns Frieden [5:44]
Kyrie Eleison [1:23]
Ehre sei Gott in der Höhe [4:54]
Ave Maria Op. 23 No. 2 [7:22]
Mitten wir im Leben sind Op. 23 No. 3 [8:35]
Heilig, heilig ist Gott, der Herr Zebaoth [1:37]
Six Anthems for different times of the year Op. 79 [11:56]
Warum toben die Heiden Op. 78 No. 1 [7:15]
Richte mich, Gott Op. 78 No. 2 [3:51]
Mein Gott, warum hast du? Op. 78 No. 3 [10:07]
Hör mein Bitten [11:23]
Anne Dawson (soprano)
Rogers Covey-Crump (tenor)
John Scott (organ)
Corydon Singers
English Chamber Orchestra/Matthew Best
rec. 10, 17-18 February 1989, St Jude-on-the-Hill, Hampstead Garden Suburb, London
HYPERION HELIOS CDH55268 [74:58] 

 


Originally recorded back in 1989, this disc of Mendelssohn choral favourites has finally made it onto Hyperion’s budget label, Helios. Bursting at the seams with potboilers, each work on this disc is instantly recognisable or approachably memorable, yet unerringly distinct and individual in its own right. From the opening bars of Verleih’ uns Frieden the assured and comfortable atmosphere makes clear why Mendelssohn’s choral music has endured the often cruel tests of time.

The obvious comparison for this disc would be Hyperion’s own recent release of choral music by Mendelssohn from St John’s College, Cambridge (see review), which overlaps this release slightly in terms of repertoire. However, while the St John’s recording is limited to organ accompaniment, there are two rarely heard orchestral versions on this earlier recording – Verleih’ uns Frieden and Ave Maria.

The majority of this disc is, however, unaccompanied and displays an ostensible penchant of Mendelssohn’s for writing works for double choir. The opulent and plush possibilities that arise from this are fully exploited by Mendelssohn – and are particularly effective in the organic growth of Heilig, heilig ist Gott, the retrospective Mitten wir im Leben sind and the varied subject material of the Six Anthems for different times of the year.

Those who prefer an adult choir rather than the more distinct sound of boys and men should look no further than this release. The usual disparity between the two types of choir appears to be amplified by this repertoire, and is never more noticeable than in Hör mein Bitten (mostly known as Hear my Prayer), where the genuine drama and desperation of the soloist is arguably more effective when performed, as here, with the distinct operatic leanings of Anne Dawson.

The English Chamber Orchestra’s contribution, whilst sometimes distant in terms of the recorded sound, is, nevertheless, rich and projected with abundant feeling and sensitivity. The stars of this recording though are undoubtedly the Corydon Singers, directed by Matthew Best. They are sonically rather closer, and can at times overpower the somewhat gentler tones of the orchestra. However, in a capella works and the solitary work with organ accompaniment, the singers shine with an often luminous blend, secure ensemble and a suitably extensive dynamic range. One or two minor tuning issues in unaccompanied pieces do not detract from the overall wholesome musicality of these fine performances.

Julian Haylock’s original 1989 sleeve-notes round off this welcome addition to Helios catalogue – surely a must for bargain hunters and aficionados alike.

Adam Binks


 


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