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
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
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.