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Felix MENDELSSOHN-BARTHOLDY (1809-1847)
Complete Sacred Choral Music
Vol. 1, Hör mein Bitten (Carus 83.101)
Vol. 2, Vom Himmel hoch (Carus 83.104)
Vol. 3, Christus (Carus 83.105)
Vol. 4, Wie der Hirsch schreit (Carus 83.202)
Vol. 5, Denn er hat seinen Engeln befohlen (Carus 83.203)
Vol. 6, Verleih uns Frieden (Carus 83.204)
Vol. 7, Hebe deine Augen auf (Carus 83.206)
Vol. 8, Magnificat (Carus SACD 83.216)
Vol. 9, Herr Gott, dich loben wir (Carus SACD 83.217)
Vol. 10, Lobgesang - Symphony No. 2 (Carus SACD 83.213)
Vol. 11, St. Paul (Carus SACD 83.214)
Vol. 12, Elijah (Carus SACD 83.215)
Various vocal soloists, Kammerchor Stuttgart,
Ensemble '76 Stuttgart, Württembergisches Kammerorchester Heilbronn, Klassische Philharmonie Stuttgart, Mitglieder der Bamberger Symphoniker, Stuttgarter Kammerorchester, Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen/Frieder Bernius
Full tracklisting and performer details at end of review.
rec. 1983-2007
Collection only available as individual volumes with the above numbers.
CARUS [12 Volumes: 56:41 + 58:26 + 66:57 + 67:10 + 62:10 + 52:54 + 55:57 + 69:00 + 72:23 + 61:51 + 123:49 + 128:40]
Experience Classicsonline

With his many compositions of sacred vocal music Felix Mendelssohn left a legacy of his most important creative efforts.” Hermann Kretzschmar (1895)

Specialising in spiritual choral music from all eras the Carus label, part of the Stuttgart based music publishing company Carus-Verlag, has now completed their impressive and comprehensive 12 volume survey of Felix Mendelssohn’s sacred choral music.

Carus assert that this set is the complete recording of Mendelssohn’s sacred choral music. Just to confuse matters it seems that there is still no complete catalogue of Mendelssohn’s music. Since the 1970s Carus-Verlag have been busy with the difficult work on their The Stuttgart Mendelssohn Editions. Acclaimed by The New York Times as, “the dean of Mendelssohn scholars” no less an authority than Professor R. Larry Todd has assisted with some of the editorial work. Carus state that this 12 volume Mendelssohn series contains world première recordings but we are not informed which they are. I was interested to read that Carus-Verlag issue the printed edition of the music only after the recordings have been made. Marketing details of this Mendelssohn sacred choral music series can be found at the company’s website:

Carus commenced this mammoth undertaking in 1983 continuing right through until 2008. Churches at a number of German towns were used as recording venues with the exception of the oratorio St. Paul that was recorded at the Ludwigsburg Forum, near Stuttgart. Volumes 8-12 have been recorded as Super-Audio CDs (SACDs) that I was only able to play on my standard disc players. The release of this set from Carus serves to mark the 200th anniversary of Mendelssohn’s birth. Currently each volume in the series will have to be bought individually. Carus inform me that a box set of the complete series is planned for 3 or 4 years time.

The consistent factor across all twelve volumes has been the employment of the Kammerchor Stuttgart conducted by their founder Frieder Bernius. Across the series six German orchestras have been used, varying in size from a large symphony orchestra to a string ensemble. The Bremen based Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie have been used the most often and feature on half of the volumes.

Carus has engaged a large number of soloists across the series and my estimate is that some fifty-five individual singers have been credited in the annotation. Most soloists appear on only one or sometimes two volumes, however, a handful of singers feature as soloists on three or more discs; namely the basses Michael Volle and Adolph Seidel, tenors Werner Güra and Christoph Prégardien, sopranos Monika Meier-Schmid, Maria Bernius and the renowned Ruth Ziesak; who is a favourite performer of mine.

Carus has also secured the services of several other high quality soloists who specialise in sacred choral music: Jan Kobow, Holgar Speck, Gotthold Schwarz, Andreas Weller, Matthias Horn, Berthold Possemeyer, Krisztina Láki, Monika Groop, Andrea Lauren Brown, Renée Morloc, Letizia Scherrer, Maria Cristina Kiehr, Sabine Ritterbusch, Julia Hamari, Helene Schneiderman, Bettina Pahn, Hedwig Westhoff-Düppmann and Annette Kohler. Some of the scores utilise talented soloists that are also members of the Kammerchor Stuttgart, including: Maria Bernius, Elke Rutz, Sarah Wegener, Ute Feuerecker, Stephan Gähler and the wonderful bass Adolph Seidel.

I am pleased to report that the majority of the 12 volumes in the series have texts and essays in English translations. Some of the earlier volumes have only limited translations and one volume is without any at all. As this Carus set is from a German company and is aimed predominantly at a German speaking market I have no real expectations that English texts should be provided. However, with choral scores it is important for me to report where English translations are or are not available as this information may assist in any purchase selection process. I note that the first two volumes in the set fail to provide details of the location of the recording sessions. Each of the 12 volumes contain a list of singers with what I experienced as an often baffling method of listing. Occasionally the identity of the soloist is not provided, conversely a soloist is sometimes named but the track that they sing on is not stated and also the type of choral forces and instrumentation used is not always given.

With my best endeavours I have attempted to determine to indicate the actual track or work that each singer is performing on. Although I do not speak German I have with my best intentions tried to provide an English translation of the title of each work. I thought that it would have been helpful if the annotation had consistently provided information of which type of score it is, such as a: cantata, hymn, motet etc. Throughout the set I have continued with the abbreviations of voice types that Carus have used namely; Soprano (S); Alto (A); Tenor (T) and Bass (B).

The first volume gives no English information about the seven scores contained on the discs. It is fair to say that the documentation generally improves over the course of the series. Praise is due to the authoritative essays by eminent Mendelssohn authority Prof. R. Larry Todd that appear in the last four volumes.

Frieder Bernius has pulled off quite a coup with this complete Mendelssohn series. According to the conductor it is, “the fruit of 25 years of artistic analysis and study of his complete oeuvre in the field of sacred vocal music in the form of scholarly, critical editions and recordings.” The meticulous Bernius has adhered precisely to Mendelssohn’s own metronome markings. This attention, the conductor believes, has enabled him to, “come closer to his aesthetic intensions.”

Revered in his lifetime as one of the greatest composers Mendelssohn’s music became lesser regarded from around the mid-twentieth century; greatly hindered by prejudice surrounding his Jewish heritage. Inexplicably it is still only a handful of compositions that keeps Mendelssohn’s name in the spotlight; namely the Violin Concerto, Overture to a Midsummer Night’s Dream, Hebrides Overture (Fingal's Cave), Scottish Symphony’, Italian symphony, the oratorio Elijah and in chamber music the Octet. With regard to Mendelssohn’s instrumental music some of the piano pieces from his 8 volumes of Lieder ohne Worte (Songs without Words) have remained popular. It is hard for me to imagine too many composers whose output can match or better the high and consistent quality of Mendelssohn. Only last week Mendelssohn’s Cello Sonata No. 2 in D major was played to great acclaim at my local Recorded Music Society. It transpired that only a handful of members had heard the work before.

Mendelssohn composed a large amount of choral music which contain some of the real highlights of his output; namely the cantata Die erste Walpurgisnacht and the oratorio Elijah. Of this choral music a substantial quantity is sacred music composed throughput his entire career and principally intended for the Lutheran liturgy. I noted that Mendelssohn was baptised into the Lutheran church aged 7 on the 21st March 1816; which was the same date as J.S. Bach’s birthday. Mendelssohn later pronounced himself a Anhänger, an adherent or disciple, of Friedrich Schleiermacher the Protestant theologian. In addition Mendelssohn also composed a number of texts for several other faiths such as the Huguenot and Catholic church, and a small number for the Anglican liturgy.

Mendelssohn, whose grandfather Moses was a Jewish Enlightenment Philosopher, was approached around 1843/44 by Dr. Maimon Frënkel to write psalm settings for the Hamburg New Israelite Temple (Synagogue). It seems that Mendelssohn did not commence the request or if he did any work was lost. In addition, Mendelssohn’s setting of Psalm 100, now shown to have been composed for the Berlin Domchor, was long thought to be composed for the Hamburg Synagogue.  

At my last count there are 67 sacred scores, both published and unpublished. Mendelssohn commenced writing high quality sacred works consistently from his early student years from around 1820 right through to 1846. They range from short uncomplicated choruses to the massive and ambitious oratorios St. Paul and Elijah. Research reveals that a substantial amount of Mendelssohn’s sacred music was not intended for performance at services in churches and cathedrals, but for secular settings such as the Mendelssohn family home in Berlin, at concert halls or at German and English music festivals at which the composer regularly conducted during the 1830s and 1840s. It was not unusual for a Mendelssohn motet or psalm setting to performed on the same programme as an overture, a concerto and symphony. In the accompanying essay to volume 9 of the series Prof. R. Larry Todd writes that, “Mendelssohn’s goal seems to have been to blur the boundaries between traditional sacred and sacred genres.”

Owing mainly to changes in music fashion Mendelssohn’s impressive output of psalm settings, motets, cantatas, occasional liturgical pieces and the Lobgesang (Hymn of Praise); works that figured so prominently in the European music life of the mid to late 1800s are either largely forgotten or rarely performed. In fact, around the early part of the twentieth century many musicologists including eminent German musicologist Hermann Kretzschmar (1848-1924) considered Mendelssohn’s sacred choral music to be the most important genre of his broad output.

Two mainstays of the genre the magnificent oratorios St. Paul and Elijah secured Mendelssohn’s fame at home in Germany and in Victorian Britain where they were frequently performed at numerous music festivals and sometimes conducted by the composer himself. In spite of the forceful and enduring backlash against things Germanic and Victorian that prevailed in Britain following the outbreak of the Great War the oratorios St. Paul and especially Elijah have remained perennially popular with the British provincial choral societies. Only this week I noticed that my local choral society is to perform St. Paul this spring.

From a wider European prospective Mendelssohn’s reputation over many years became tarnished by a number of factors such as a progressive movement working against Romanticism in music. Furthermore, one should not underestimate the significant effect that anti-Semitism had on Mendelssohn’s reputation. It is easy to find an extensive amount of information on this particular subject elsewhere. Thankfully this comprehensive series of sacred choral music from Carus should help to redress the balance and assist in Mendelssohn’s rehabilitation in this his 200th anniversary year.

It is acknowledged that from the age of 11 Mendelssohn was greatly influenced by his composition teacher Carl Zelter, the director at the Berlin Singakademie. Zelter had a strong interest in sacred music, especially that of J.S. Bach and Handel, both composers whose music the young Mendelssohn revered. Evidently Zelter, who had also taught the renowned Grand opera composer Giacomo Meyerbeer, had a collection of music scores by J.S. Bach and Handel. Musicologist Susanna Großmann-VendreyJ wrote, “Mendelssohn’s sacred music is inextricably tied to his intense study the music of Bach and Handel.” Mendelssohn often used the music of J.S. Bach, who he called the “great master”, as a model to enable him to write the type of sacred choral music that he desired. So impressed was Mendelssohn with J.S. Bach’s music that in 1829 he arranged and conducted the famous revival of the St. Matthew Passion with the Berlin Singakademie at a time when Bach’s music was very much out of favour.

Sacred Choral Music, Vol. 1
This opening disc in the Carus series titled Hör mein Bitten comprises a range of mainly a cappella scores from both early and late in Mendelssohn’s career.
 
The first track is the delightful hymn Hör mein Bitten (Hear My Prayer) for soprano soloist, SATB choir and orchestra. This is a German setting of an English text by William Bartholomew, a paraphrase on Psalm 55: 2-8, and composed in 1844 with organ accompaniment. Mendelssohn orchestrated the score shortly before his death in 1847. Leading oratorio and lieder performer Julia Hamari the Hungarian mezzo-soprano sings the solo soprano part and is in admirable voice. She has a pure and characterful tone, especially in her mid register, with several of her early lines having a dreamy quality. Hamari’s top register can feel less attractive with a tendency to grab at the note. I think the score suits the soprano voice better as heard in Lydia Allert’s performance with Nicol Matt for Brilliant Classics. From 5:32 we hear the famous O Könnt Ich Fliegen Wie Tauben Dahin (O, for the wings of a dove); so often heard as a stand alone score and a perennial favourite at both weddings and funerals. Although superbly sung with plenty of relish shown for the beautiful text Hamari does seem to be in rather a rush. Frieder Bernius’s Ensemble ‘76 Stuttgart provides splendid orchestral support.

From 1823 the Kyrie in C minor for SAATB soloists and SATB/SATB choir is a rarely heard Latin setting that deserves wider attention. Of the scoring for five soloists only three are credited; namely soprano Monika Meier-Schmid and the two altos Ute Wille and Gabriele Hahn. Notwithstanding the blend and ensemble from the group of soloists and the Kammerchor under Frieder Bernius is exemplary.
 
A short anthem from 1840 the Geistliches Lied (Sacred Song), Laß, o Herr, mich Hilfe finden (Help me, Lord, in my affliction) is scored for alto soloist, SATB choir and organ. The score is a German setting of Charles Bayles Broadley’s version of the 13th Psalm. The sole accompaniment a reedy organ played by Christof Roos sounds in superb condition. Julia Hamari in the alto part lives up to her considerable reputation as reverential performer of sacred music; here beseeching the Lord for his help.

The lovely antiphon Hora est (The hour as come!) is described in the annotation for baritone solo, SATB/SATB/SATB/SATB choir with ad lib basso seguente organ accompaniment. The Hora est was composed by Mendelssohn in 1828 for his sister Fanny’s birthday and heard at the Berlin Singakademie in 1829. In this polychoral motet Mendelssohn uses a Latin text from the Catholic Service for Advent. Scored for four-part mixed choir and organ the writing makes impressive use of the sixteen voices in the spirit of early Italian sacred music. The steadfast and richly toned bass Adolph Seidel, although only briefly at the forefront, is credited as leading the splendid vocal forces of the Kammerchor. At times the score reminded me of the character of a Christmas carol or hymn. Organist Jon Laukvik proves himself an adept and sensitive accompanist on the fine instrument.

The Three Motets, Op.69 from 1847 comprise of the Jubilate Deo, Nunc Dimittis and Magnificat. The set was conceived as English Church Pieces with texts for the Anglican service and later translated into the German texts used here. I am unsure why only two of the set of Three Motets, Op.69 are contained on this volume and not in their number order either. Incidentally the motet Jauchzet dem Herrn, alle Welt (Sing for joy to God, all the earth) for SATB choir, Op. 69/2 is contained on volume 7 of the series.

Presented here is the third of the opus 69 set the Magnificat: Mein Herz erhebet Gott, den Hern (My soul Both magnify the Lord) for SATB soloists and SATB choir. Mendelssohn uses a text from Luke, chapter 1: 46-55 and Doxology. I found the confident a-cappella singing gloriously intoned by Frieder Bernius’s Kammerchor. At point 1:08-2:19 I felt that the quartet of soloists were set a touch too far back in the balance.

For the unusual scoring of soprano soloist and strings the Salve Regina in E flat major was composed to Latin text circa 1824. Again the mezzo-soprano Julia Hamari is credited with the soprano part in this gentle and thoughtful score with a tessitura that seems to suit her range splendidly. I note that after the previous track 5 the volume had to be increased here to hear the soloist clearly.

The final score on the volume, the first of the 1847 set of Three Motets, Op.69 is a Nunc dimittis known as the Canticum Simeonis (Simeon canticle): Herr, nun lässest du deinen Diener in Frieden fahren (Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace). The setting uses a text from Luke, chapter 2: 29–32 and is scored for SATB soloists and SATB choir. The booklet notes state that the soloists consist of an ATB trio not SATB. This motet is a mainly soothing setting with several episodes of intense supplication to the Holy Trinity from the assured Stuttgart singers directed by Frieder Bernius.

Full English translations of the texts are provided but for some reason the part of the essay that discusses the actual scores is not translated into English. It is also a shame that we are not given any information about the location(s) of the recordings and do details whatsoever about the organ(s) used on the disc. I have pointed out a couple of small concerns that I had with the sound balance but nothing to worry about as generally the engineering is very good.

Sacred Choral Music, Vol. 2

Three early works from Mendelssohn’s output are contained on this second volume titled Vom Himmel hoch. The disc features the early Te Deum (1826).

The release opens with the lovely chorale cantata: Vom Himmel hoch (From Heaven above). Cast in six movements the scoring is for soprano and baritone soloists, SSATB choir and orchestra. Mendelssohn composed the score in 1831 using several of the German verses from Martin Luther’s Christmas hymn hence the name of the Weihnachtskantate (Christmas Cantata) that is sometimes given to the score. It seems that Mendelssohn based the music on the same hymn that had inspired J. S. Bach who used it three times in his Christmas Oratorio and also in his Magnificat.

I was immediately aware of the commanding orchestral playing from the Württembergisches Kammerorchester and the exultant singing from the Kammerchor under Frieder Bernius. In his short devout aria Es ist der herr Christ, unser Gott (He is the Christ, his blessed Lord) the German baritone Berthold Possemeyer sensitively conveys appropriately restrained expression. Especially affecting are his closing lines Er bringt euch alle Seligkeit, die Gott der Vater hat bereit (He brings you all blessedness, That God will forgive you in his grace). Possemeyer is elegantly toned in his brief arioso Das also hat gefallen dir (And therefore, Lord it pleases thee) warning of the futility of All worldly honour, power or worth. In her arioso Sei willekomm', du edler Gast (Be welcome now, O noble guest) a prayer of thanks for God’s grace, Hungarian soprano Krisztina Laki sings with unerring soulfulness with impressive diction and considerable purity of tone.

The vesper hymn Ave maris stella (Hail star of the sea) is scored for soprano and small orchestra. Mendelssohn premiered the single movement hymn in 1828 in a version for soprano with organ accompaniment. The hymn in its original form for plainsong vespers has an important place in honouring the Virgin Mary in the Catholic Church. The Ave maris stella is a generally calming Latin setting and the seraphic toned soprano of Krisztina Laki is nicely featured against light, woodwind infused, accompaniment. At 3:11-5:17 the reverential mood becomes more upbeat with an increased requirement for florid agility from the soloist that reminded me at times of Mozart’s concert aria, ‘Vorrei spiegarvi, oh Dio!’, K.418. In the concluding section from 5:18 the soothing tones of the impressive Krisztina Laki washed over me like a balm.

The Te Deum laudamus (We praise thee, O God) sometimes called the Ambrosian Hymn because of its association with Saint Ambrose. The Te Deum has an important place in sacred music literature having been set by many eminent composers such as Händel, J.S. Bach, Bruckner, Berlioz, Dvořák, Haydn and Liszt. Mendelssohn’s setting of the Latin Te Deum in D major is cast in 12 short sections and scored for SATB/SATB soloists, SATB/SATB choir with the light accompaniment of a basso continuo section. Written in 1826, when Mendelssohn was only in his mid-teens, around the time of other highly important and remarkable compositions; namely his Octet for strings and the Overture to a Midsummer Night’s Dream. Mendelssohn was it seems inspired by Händel’s setting of the Dettingen Te Deum that had been performed at the Berliner Singakademie. Mendelssohn’s later 1832 setting of the Te Deum is included on volume 7 of the series.
 
The Te Deum laudamus (We praise thee, O God) is a tremendously powerful Latin score in praise in the glory of God and a declaration of faith. The outer movements and those others of the Te Deum that contain Frieder Bernius’s choral large forces including the organ are magnificent and stirring. Featuring eight assured soloists the lighter scored sections: Te aeternum Patrem (All the world doth worship thee), Tibi Cherubim (To Thee the Cherubim) and Dignare, Domine (Vouchsafe, O Lord) convey a profound faith in the Lord. I found the marvellously blended quartet of soloists Monika Meier-Schmid (soprano), Mechthild Seitz (alto), Andreas Wagner (tenor) and Cornelius Hauptmann (bass) communicating a deeply felt spirituality in the two sections Patrem immensae majestatis (The father of infinite majesty) and Te ergo quæsumus (We beseech Thee).
 
The recording was made at an uncredited location and I can report a pleasing and well balanced sound quality. Strangely only the text for Vom Himmel Hoch (From Heaven above) has been translated into English and not the other two scores. However, a decent essay in English provided.

Sacred Choral Music, Vol. 3
Titled Christus this third volume in the series consists of works from early and late in Mendelssohn’s career containing two choral works with orchestral accompaniment and five a-cappella scores. The feature work is Christus the unfinished oratorio presented here in two fragments.

The first work on the disc is the Kyrie in D minor for SSATB choir and large orchestra from 1825. This Latin setting was written during Mendelssohn’s association with the Berlin Singakademie. The young Felix Mendelssohn had been taken to Paris in 1825 by his father Abraham to allow the eminent composer Cherubini and leading light in Parisian music circles to assess Felix’s talents. It seems that this Kyrie in D minor was one of the scores presented to Cherubini as an example of Felix’s work. Mendelssohn’s earlier setting of the Kyrie a C minor score was composed two years before in 1823 and is contained on volume 1.

In the D minor Kyrie I was immediately struck by the glorious and quite magical sound of the orchestral playing from the members of the Bamberger Symphoniker under Frieder Bernius. The drum rolls that punctuate the score add a threatening character to the proceedings. A calmer central section from around 5:30-7:37 is only a brief respite from the high intensity of the music. As we have come to expect the remarkable Kammerchor of Stuttgart are in splendid voice, intensely passionate, yet devout with impeccable ensemble.

Intended as the third part of a trilogy of oratorios with St. Paul and Elijah Mendelssohn did not live to complete Christus for soloists, choir and orchestra, Op. 97. Prof. R. Larry Todd contends that Christus is a score that, “remains shrouded in mystery.” Evidently the original idea for Christus may have emerged as early as 1838 in the wake of the growing popularity of St. Paul (1834-36). It is thought that the fragments that form Christus were the result of the composer’s collaboration with the music journalist and theatre coach Carl Gollmick and his friend Gams on a score titled Erde, Hölle und Himmel (Earth, Heaven and Hell). The German text was drawn from Old Testament scriptures and Mendelssohn worked on the score at various intervals from 1846 until 1847 the year of his death. It seems that after Mendelssohn’s death the untitled autograph score was given the name Christus by Mendelssohn’s brother Paul and was published as Op. 97 in 1852. The fragments contain several highlights but given the score’s incomplete state are to me, not surprisingly, a rather unsatisfactory experience.

In the first part of the Christus fragment Geburt Christi (The Birth of Christ) I was struck by the various changes of mood contained within this segment. The score opens with a solo recitative accompanied by strings with soprano Dorothea Rieger conveying tones remarkably like that of a boy soprano. Following straight on is the affecting male trio commencing with the words Wo ist der neugeborne König der Juden? (Where is the newborn King of the Jews?). Sung by tenor Christoph Prégardien, baritone Johannes-Christoph Happel and bass Cornelius Hauptmann this section is a highpoint of the score.

The second part of the Christus fragment Leiden Christi (Suffering Christ) is dominated by an integrated scheme of six recitatives for tenor solo. Sweet, light and pure toned Christoph Prégardien demonstrates that he was an assured choice for the tenor part. Credit is due here for the sensitive and assured playing from the members of the Bamberger Symphoniker under Frieder Bernius. 

Cast in a single movement the vesper hymn Jube Domne (Grant us, Father) for SATB soloists and SATB/SATB choir was composed in 1822 by the thirteen year old Mendelssohn. Splendidly performed the Jube Domne in C major is an inventive Latin a-cappella score. I was struck by the especially effective use of the combination of four soloists and the eight part double voices of Frieder Bernius’s Kammerchor.
 
Forming part of the Protestant Liturgy and set in German the motets Drei Psalmen (Three Psalms), Op. 78 composed 1843/44 was one of several scores that Mendelssohn wrote for the Berlin Cathedral choir.

In the first motet Psalm 2 Warum toben die Heiden (Why are the heathen so angry), Op. 78/1 scored for SATB/SATB soloists and SATB/SATB choir I was impressed by the deep veneration of the performance. Psalm 43 Richte mich, Gott (Judge Me, O God), Op. 78/2 is the second motet in the series and scored for SSAATTBB choir and reveals itself as a joyous and attractive score. The final motet in the group is the setting of Psalm 22 Mein Gott, warum hast du mich (My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?), Op. 78/3 for soloists and SATB/SATB choir. The rather sombre opening of the motet gives way to more uplifting writing that in turn ends in a beautiful, almost late-Romantic expression. The credited soloists for the Opus 78 set the sopranos Dorothea Rieger and Monika Meier-Schmid; altos Isolde Assenheimer-Luz and Mechthilde Seitz; tenors Christoph Prégardien and Bernhard Scheffel, and basses Cornelius Hauptmann and Adolph Seidel combine to convey a deeply felt veneration to their sacred pronouncements.

Composed swiftly in 1824 the chorale motet Jesus, meine Zuversicht (Jesus my Redeemer lives) is scored for solo bass, SSATB soloists, SSATB choir and organ accompaniment. The score is a German setting in the tradition of the Protestant motet and intended presumably for the Berlin Singakademie. I was struck by Mendelssohn’s varied and imaginative employment of the soloists and chorus which provides an enthralling sacred score. At 1:16-3:57 the marked contrast between the male and female voices is remarkable writing. Later at 4:54-7:30 the section Meine Hülle ist nur Staub for solo bass sung by Cornelius Hauptmann accompanied by organist Sonntraud Engels-Benz conveys great clarity and expression. This is a true highlight of the disc if not the whole set. With a chorus of Hallelujah! from 7:31 I love the way the mixed voices of Frieder Bernius’s Kammerchor provide a splendid fugal conclusion to the motet.

This volume contains no English translations of the texts. It is such a pity that this oversight prevents the listener from fully understanding the meaning of the settings. Serving as some consolation there is a concise and reasonably informative essay in English provided. The numbering system of the works on the rear of the jewel case does not link in easily with the track listing inside the booklet and it is often difficult to ascertain the identity of the soloists. The German Parish churches of Schwaigern (tracks 1-3) and Gönningen, Goenningen (tracks 4-8) were used for this volume. The sound quality is to a high standard, although, I thought that the acoustic from the Gönningen church was especially clear.

Sacred Choral Music, Vol. 4
This fourth volume in the series titled Wie der Hirsch schreit comprises of three scores for chorus and orchestra. Included is Mendelssohn’s best known Psalm setting Psalm 114.

The opening work is Psalm 114: Da Israel aus Ägypten zog (When Israel came from Egypt’s land), Op. 51 is scored entirely for the 8-voice SATB/SATB choir without soloists. The setting with orchestra displays Mendelssohn’s considerable debt to Handel not least to his oratorio Israel in Egypt that he had studied and conducted. Composed in 1839-41 this German Psalm setting can be divided into five distinct sections.

I enjoyed the majestic choral outpourings Vor dem Herrn bebte die Erde (At God’s word, O earth) punctuated by brass and drums at 6:03-8:35. The bright and serene section from 8:36 Da Israel aus Ägypten zog (When Israel came from Egypt’s land) develops considerable passion and intensity to provide a magnificent conclusion to the score. It is hard to fault Frieder Bernius’s beautifully blended Kammerchor Stuttgart who perform with rapt expression, vigour and a deeply felt religious feeling.

Mendelssohn’s setting of Psalm 42: Wie der Hirsch schreit nach frischem Wasser (As the heart longs for streams of water), Op. 42 has endured as one of his most popular sacred choral works. Composed in 1837-38 and designed in seven sections the Psalm 42 is scored for STTBB soloists, SATB choir and orchestra. Mendelssohn described his German setting as, “my best sacred piecethe best thing I have composed in this manner” a work that, “I hold in greater regard than most of my other compositions.”

The soprano aria in the second section Meine Seele dürstet nach Gott (My soul thirsts for God) featuring splendid accompaniment from the oboe is a highlight of the score. Performed with impressive devotion soprano Ruth Ziesak seems equally comfortable right across her range, displaying clear diction and a radiant purity of tone. Towards the conclusion of the aria at 2:20- 2:31 Ruth Ziesak soars magnificently up to the heavens in a moving episode and a true highlight of the score.

Following on in section three is the soprano recitative and brisk aria that Ruth Ziesak performs at her most expressive. Another high spot of the score is the devout and captivating sixth section quintet that commences with the words Der Herr hat des Tages verheissen seine Güte (By day shall the Lord still ordain his loving kindness). Here I just adored the solo soprano voice of Ruth Ziesak, proclaiming her restless spirit and striving for God, set against the homophonic passage for four male soloists tenors Christoph Prégardien and Jan Kobow and basses Gotthold Schwarz and Adolph Seidel.

The substantial cantata Lauda Sion (Praise Jehovah), Op. 73 is a rarely heard work today and unfairly so owing to its exceptionally high quality. It was composed in 1846-46 as a result of a commission for the Catholic Church at St. Martin’s at Liège. The assignment was to celebrate a new setting of the Corpus Christi sequence of St. Thomas Aquinas on the 600th anniversary of the founding of the feast of Corpus Christi. As well as being influenced by Handel and J.S. Bach it seems that Mendelssohn was strongly inspired by the Italian style of the Lauda Sion from the celebrated Parisian based composer Luigi Cherubini. Whilst composing the Lauda Sion it would seem that Mendelssohn had use of the Roman Catholic chant book as he utilised the old melody on three occasions in the fifth section Docti sacris institutis (They that in much tribulation). Mendelssohn’s Latin setting is scored for SATB soloists, SATB choir and orchestra. There are solemn and heavy textures in the score that contrast starkly with sections of more relaxed lyrical moods. Prof. R. Larry Todd has written a fascinating article about the Lauda Sion available on-line on: http://www.americansymphony.org/dialogue.php?id=132&season=2003-2004

I especially enjoyed the third section of the Lauda Sion, Sit laus plena, sit sonora (Sing of judgement, sing of mercies) a divine soprano solo with chorus that Ruth Ziesak performs with an impeccable veneration. Later in section seventh Caro cibus, sanguis potus (Lord, at all times) Ruth Ziesak is once again in splendid voice singing with profound feeling in her solo aria accompanied by light and distinctive woodwind. Another highlight of the score is the section for quartet In hac mensa novi Regis (Ye Who from His ways have turned) for SATB soloists. Outstandingly performed by Ruth Ziesak, alto Helene Schneiderman, tenor Jan Kobow and bass Adolph Seidel the mixed quartet aptly demonstrate Mendelssohn’s genius for dignified and expressive sacred writing.

The dramatic final movement of the Lauda Sion, Sumit unus, sumunt mille (Save the people) is scored for soloists and chorus revealing a considerable depth of sacred feeling in supplication to the Lord. The score concludes in a calm mood of contentment that for me convincingly evokes a vision of Christ as the Good Shepherd guiding the people through the barren vale and verdant pastures. Throughout I was struck by the deeply felt religious feeling conveyed by Frieder Bernius’s Stuttgart singers. Throughout the responsive playing of the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie, Bremen is of the highest standard.

This fourth volume is the first in the series to include full English translations of the text and essay. Recorded in 1996 at the Evang. Kirch St. Johannes in Schwaigern, Germany the sound quality is clear and well balanced.

Sacred Choral Music, Vol. 5
Titled Denn er hat seinen Engeln befohlen volume 5 in the series contains a-cappella scores. A couple of the pieces have organ accompaniment and one with instrumental bass. The disc takes its name from the brief final score on the disc Denn er hat seinen Engeln befohlen (For he shall give his angels charge) a motet that is included in the repertoire of many church choirs.

The opening score on the disc is the very brief Kyrie, Gloria and Sanctus from the Deutschen Liturgie (German Liturgy) and scored for SATB/SATB choir. Mendelssohn worked on the score while he was Generalmusikdirektor for church and sacred music at the Court of the King of Prussia. A late work from 1846 it seems that Mendelssohn was not able to complete the ‘German Mass’ before his untimely death. This attractive trilogy of pieces were amongst the few sacred compositions that Mendelssohn originally intended for liturgical purposes. Unfortunately the Deutsche Liturgie has failed to become established within the framework of the Protestant church service.
 
The first piece of the Deutschen Liturgie is the Latin setting Kyrie eleison (Gracious Lord have mercy). In the key of A major the high voices of the Kammerchor dominate the basses to create an effect of angelic purity. The Gloria uses a German text Ehre Sei Gott In Der Höhe (And peace to all peoples). At 1:14-2:37 the entrance of the solo voices produce a calming almost ethereal atmosphere. The concluding section of the German Mass the Sanctus is another German setting Heilig Heilig Heilig (Holy, Holy, Holy). I was struck by the captivating performance and the beautifully blended tone from Frieder Bernius’s Stuttgart chorus.

Completed in 1830 whilst Mendelssohn was staying in Rome. The set Drei Kirchenstück (Three Sacred Pieces) were the first sacred scores that Mendelssohn thought worthy of publication and were issued in 1832 by Nikolaus Simrock, the Bonn publisher, as opus 23. The three a-cappella works, which are two Lutheran chorales flanking a Catholic Ave Maria, were not intended for any specific occasion. They are not related as a set in terms of religious subjects and design. Here conductor Frieder Bernius has placed the Ave Maria, Op. 23/2 as the final score of the three.
 
The Aus tiefer Not schrei ich zu dir (From depth of grief I call to Thee) in F minor, Op. 23/1 is scored for ATB soloists, SATB choir and organ and appears to fall into five sections. Mendelssohn uses a German chorale and text after Psalm 130 by Martin Luther that I would describe as a lament for the faithful who have departed this life. Employed alternatively in three of the five sections the Kammerchor come across as an inspiring celestial body of sound. A highlight of the score is at 4:44-6:20 with the words Bei dir gilt nichts denn Gnad und Gunst (For it is by thy grace alone) when with deep devotion the forlorn tenor enters accompanied by the organ. I also enjoyed at 8:03-10:40 when the trio of soloists led by the bass proclaim Und ob es währt bis in die Nacht (And although I watch all through the night).
 
The Mitten wir im Leben sind (We now in the Midst of Life) in C minor, Op. 23/3 scored for SSAATTBB choir is also based on a chorale and uses a Martin Luther text. Mendelssohn wrote to his sister Fanny in 1830 that the score was, “one of the best church pieces that I have written, and growls angrily, or whistles dark blue.” The Stuttgart choir are in immaculate voice penetrating deeply with atonement into the grave text that is weighed down with the heaviness of death and the fires of hell.

Ave Maria (Hail Mary) in A major, Op. 23/2 is scored for SATB soloists, SSAATTBB choir and organ is a Latin setting of the Catholic liturgy in veneration to the Virgin Mary. The tenor soloist, that I take to be Jan Kobow, is in glorious voice, natural and unforced, blending seamlessly with the Stuttgart choir. There is organ accompaniment to the Ave Maria yet there is no reference to this in the liner notes.

The Adspice Domine is a Vespergesang (Evensong) scored for TTBB soloists and TTBB choir with instrumental bass accompaniment. Mendelssohn composed the A minor score in 1833 during his tenure as Music Director in Düsseldorf, a Roman Catholic town, with responsibility for sacred music. Cast in five sections the Adspice Domine a setting of the Response and Hymnus for the 21st Sunday after Trinity was published posthumously as Op. 121. Gregorian plainsong and psalmody features are clearly perceptible in the Adspice Domine. The booklet notes explain that, “the Responsorium and Anthem, O lux beata trinitas (O blessed eternal light), represents a challenge and an enrichment of the spiritual literature for male choir.” The four male soloists and the four-part male choir convey a rich vein of tenderness and humility. Well supported by cello and double bass accompaniment I could not, however, detect the organ that is mentioned in the liner notes. The notes also incorrectly indicate that individual woman soloists are performing in this all male Vespergesang.  

The German settings Sechs Sprüche zum Kirchenjahr (6 Sayings Anthems) were composed in 1843-46 for the Berlin Cathedral choir and are associated with particular Church feast days. The Sprüche or Sayings is the point between the Epistle and the Alleluia in reformed German liturgy. The set of Sechs Sprüche for eight voice mixed a-cappella chorus (SSAATTBB) was published posthumously as opus 79. I’m not sure of the published opus number allocated to each individual Sprüch. They appear here in the series that is generally used in recordings. This I note is also the Carus-Verlag catalogue number order. 

Brightly lit with medium weight textures the set of Sechs Sprüche are given marvellously judged performances by the eight mixed voices of the Kammerchor directed by Frieder Bernius. Opening with Im Advent (On Advent), Lasset uns frohlocken (Let us all be joyful) marked Andante this G major Sprüch is given a raptly uplifting rendition by the Kammerchor in adoration of the Lord. The G major Sprüch, Weihnachten (On Christmas Day), Frohlocket, ihr Völker (Rejoice, O ye lands) an Allegro moderato briskly sung is a joyfully majestic score praising the Lord. Intended as a supplication to God as a strong refuge Am Neujahrstage (On New Years Day), Herr Gott, du bist unsre Zuflucht (O Lord, thou art our strong refuge evermore) is a slowly paced Andante in D minor sung by the Stuttgart chorus with appropriate compassion and reverence.

In the Sprüch, In der Passionszeit (On Passiontide), Herr, gedenke nicht unsrer Übeltaten (Lord, take no remembrance of our misdoings) an Adagio in D minor the gifted chorus conveys a serene and exalted reflection that the Lord have mercy on us. Marked Sostenuto e grave the E minor Sprüch, Am Karfreitage (On Good Friday), Um unsrer Sünden willen (Because of our transgressions) is communicated as a solemn supplication in thanksgiving for Christ’s crucifixion. The final Sprüch, Am Himmelfahrtstage (On Ascension Day), Erhaben, o Herr, über alles Lob (Exalted, O Lord, over all our praise) an Allegro maestoso e moderato in B flat major is sung by the Kammerchor as a stirring sacred outpouring of praise to the Lord.


Mendelssohn wrote his setting of Psalm 100, Jauchzet dem Herrn, alle Welt (Sing to God, all the earth) for SSAATTBB choir circa 1842/44. I have seen the score included in the catalogue as WoO 28. Although rich in texture the C major score marked Andante con moto/Andante is within the compass of the average church choir and has proved enduringly popular. Owing mainly to Mendelssohn’s roots in Judaism there has been much discussion over the years as to whether the setting was intended for a Jewish service; a possible commission from the Neuer Tempel-Verein of Hamburg. Biographer Prof. R. Larry ToddI puts forward a different viewpoint, “The preponderance of evidence suggests that Mendelssohn’s setting of the Psalm 100 was intended for the Berlin Cathedral.” There is a blissful radiance from the marvellous voices of the Stuttgart singers combined with a deep religious conviction in thanksgiving to Almighty God.

The final work on the disc the motet Denn er hat seinen Engeln befohlen über dir (For he shall give his angels charge over thee) in G major for SSAATTBB choir is a setting of a couple of verses from Psalm 98. Composed in 1844 the motet was dedicated to King Friedrich Wilhelm IV of Prussia; who had recently survived an assassination attempt. Mendelssohn orchestrated the score and added slight modifications before incorporating this appealing music into the oratorio Elijah. Frieder Bernius’s Kammerchor respectfully proclaim with rapt conviction that the Angels shall protect and guide thee.

This splendidly recorded volume was made, I have discovered, at the Evangelischen Kirche Petrus und Paulus in Gönningen. I can report that there is an interesting and informative essay in English and full English texts are provided. The often confusing liner notes have several errors as mentioned above in the review. This has made me wary of crediting specific soloists on this volume.

Sacred Choral Music, Vol. 6
Volume six titled Verleih uns Frieden contains Mendelssohn’s setting of Psalm 115 from 1829/30 and four of his eight Chorales, that are cantatas on German hymn tunes, written around the same period in 1829/31. It still remains a perplexing actuality that the excellent Chorale cantatas remained virtually unknown until recent years. On this volume Frieder Bernius employs the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie, Bremen for the recording at the church at Schwaigern and the Stuttgarter Kammerorchester at the Gönningen church, Reutlingen.

Throughout his life Mendelssohn was greatly inspired by Psalms and he composed 5 great orchestral Psalm settings. The uplifting Psalm 115, Nicht unserm Namen, Herr, (Not unto us, O Lord) Non nobis, Domine, Op, 31 was composed for soprano, tenor and bass soloists, choir and orchestra and is cast in four sections. The setting was started by Mendelssohn whilst in England late in 1829 and completed the next year in Rome. This was Mendelssohn’s only psalm setting to use a Latin Vulgate text from the Catholic service rather than the Lutheran text. For its subsequent publication in 1835 Mendelssohn felt it advantageous to provide a singing text in German. Of its type this was Mendelssohn’s earliest Psalm setting and it was premièred in 1838 at the Leipzig Gewandhaus. In the second movement duet Israel hofft auf dich (But thou, house of Israel) soprano Ruth Ziesak displays her creamy angelic voice and tenor Christoph Prégardien is light with smooth and floating tones. I was impressed with the splendid diction and remarkable degree of expression from Gotthold Schwarz in the bass arioso Er segne euch je mehr und mehr (The Lord shall increase you more and more).

In three sections the chorale cantata O Haupt voll Blut und Wunden (O head, so bruised and wounded) is a setting of a Paul Gerhard text from 1656. In Münich Mendelssohn was greatly moved and inspired by a painting by Spanish artist Antonio Castillo y Saavedra depicting Mary and Saint John leaving Mount Calvary after the crucifixion. A photograph of this magnificent painting is reproduced in the booklet. Scored for bass soloist, choir and orchestra this is a dark score, especially in the opening section with low instrumental parts and voices taking prominence. The highlight is the bass aria where Christ expresses his torment, redeeming the sinful world by his crucifixion. Here bass Michael Volle exhibits his sturdy and rich timbre and his noticeable vibrato is never obtrusive.  

Cast in a single movement Mendelssohn’s first chorale cantata: Christe, du Lamm Gottes (Christ, Lamb of God) completed in 1827 is scored for SATB choir and orchestra. Mendelssohn based the text on Martin Luther’s version in German of the Agnus Dei. One cannot fail to be impressed by the long flowing melodic lines that implore the Lamb of God to take away the sin of the world, so skilfully performed by Frieder Bernius’s assured Kammerchor.

Both the melody and the German text for Wer nur den lieben Gott läßt walten (If you would let the loving God guide you) are by Goerg Neumark from 1641. The chorale cantata from 1829 is scored for soprano soloist, choir and orchestra and is cast in four movements. I loved the second movement with the high voices of the mixed choir soaring upwards to the heavens. The soprano aria is sensitively sung by Sabine Ritterbusch a German singer with a dazzlingly bright and clear voice who has built her reputation mainly in opera. When under pressure I felt Ritterbusch’s voice a touch unsteady; verging on the piercing.   

The final score on the disc is the chorale cantata Verleih uns Frieden gnädiglich (Give us peace mercifully) cast in a short single movement and scored for SATB choir and orchestra. To a text by Martin Luther the chorale cantata was composed in 1831 during the clamour of a carnival that Mendelssohn was attending in Rome. Mendelssohn described the score as a “prayer” or “little song.” Robert Schumann in 1844 remarked, “The small piece deserves to be world famous and will become so in the future; the Madonnas of Raphael and Murillo cannot remain hidden for long.” The imaginative orchestration includes a prominent and refreshing role for two cellos. Frieder Bernius’s confident Kammerchor sing the text with absorbing eloquence, a glorious tone and ensemble, ably supported by the Stuttgarter Kammerorchester.

Recorded at the Parish churches at Schwaigern and Gönningen I can report a high standard sound quality, clear and well balanced. The texts to all the works with the exception of Psalm 115 and Verleih uns Frieden have English translations; albeit not always satisfactory ones. There is an essay in English provided but not all the notes have been translated into English. Furthermore the scoring of each work is not provided.

Sacred Choral Music, Vol. 7
Titled Hebe deine Augen auf this seventh volume in the Mendelssohn sacred music series consists of 13 scores for a-cappella chorus; some with organ accompaniment. The scores range from early compositions to the year of Mendelssohn’s death.  

The volume opens with the Abendsegen (short evening prayer), Herr, sei gnädig unserm Flehn (Lord be merciful to our supplication). The score was originally written by Mendelssohn in 1833 as a brief four-part fugato with organ accompaniment and titled Kyrie eleeson (sic) to a text used at Evensong in the Anglican service. Composed for Thomas Attwood, the organist at the Chapel Royal in London who Mendelssohn had stayed with as a guest, the score was published later in 1841 at Leipzig. This version of the Herr, sei gnädig is scored for a-cappella SATB choir in A minor with a German text and is sung here with gentle solace and peaceful resignation by the celestial voices of the Kammerchor under the direction of Frieder Bernius.

Cast in three sections the Trauergesang (dirge/funeral hymn), Sahst du ihn herniederschweben (Have you seen him hovering near), Op. 116 is scored for a-cappella SATB choir. Mendelssohn completed the score in 1845 in response to a request by poet Friedrich Aulenbach to set some of his verses that had been written in memory of a deceased friend. We are told that the first edition of the score is the source of this recording. In the booklet notes Felix Lay (translated by John Coombs) aptly observes a “profound mood” and “world weariness” to parts of this lamentation for the dead; convincingly intoned by the confident Stuttgart singers with a dark passion.

The Zwei geistliche Männerchöre (2 sacred choruses for men’s choir) for TTBB choir, Op. 115 were commissioned by Johann Clarus a Leipzig Professor of Medicine. In 1837 Mendelssohn took only a day to compose each motet to Biblical texts in Latin. Just two days after completion the motets were performed at a service to commemorate Professor Christian Martin Koch; a former colleague of Professor Clarus. Distinguished by their uncomplicated musical content the two contrasting motets for a-cappella male choir were published in 1869.

Marked Andante the motet No.1 Beati mortui in C major opens with the grave words Beati mortui in Domino (Blessed are the dead) with texts taken from the book of Revelation 14:13. The Beati mortui is convincingly conveyed by the Kammerchor as a peaceful contemplation for the dead. The motet No.2 Periti autem an Allegro vivace in D major commencing with the words Periti autem fulgebunt (And they that be wise shall shine as the brightness) is taken from the books of Daniel 12: 3 and Mathew 13: 43. In the spirited Periti autem I was struck by the sparkling quality of rejoicing from Frieder Bernius’s ebullient Stuttgart choir.

Completed in 1830 the short motet: O beata et benedicta (O beautiful, blessed) in A major is scored for SSA choir and organ. I note that there is also a version scored for 3 sopranos and organ. During a visit to Italy, Mendelssohn was inspired to compose a  set of motets for the nuns at the Trinità dei Monti in Rome. The O beata et benedicta originally formed part of the published opus 39 set of Drei motetten für frauenchor und orgel (Three motets for women’s choir and organ). The setting employs a Medieval Liturgical Latin text from the Antiphon for first Vespers of Trinity Sunday. With such impeccable singing of significant humility from the Kammerchor the motet O beata et benedicta reveals itself as a sensitive veneration to the Holy Trinity. Of particular note is the significant organ part gloriously played by Sonntraud Engels-Benz.
 
Originally written for the Morning Service in 1832 at the behest of the publisher Simrock the Te Deum (We praise thee, O God) in A major is scored for SATB soloists, SATB choir and organ. Simrock published the score some years later in 1846 which is now catalogued as WoO 29. Mendelssohn’s earlier 1826 setting of the Te Deum is included on volume 2 of the series. The substantial German text of the A major Te Deum (1832) falls into five continuously sung sections. This is singing of pristine standard from Frieder Bernius’s Kammerchor conveyed with warmth and sincerity in glorification of the Lord. At 5:09 we hear the glorious polyphony where the basses and tenor voices, followed by the altos and sopranos, according to Felix Loy, “weave a double cannon at the sixth and fourth”, accentuating the words Nimm sie mit der Zahl der Heilgen auf (Make them to be numbered with thy Saints).
 
In 1830 Mendelssohn was inspired to write his Drei Motetten (Three Motets) for women’s choir and organ, Op. 39 during a trip to Rome. There Mendelssohn had heard what he described as the “wonderfully beautiful” singing of the cloistered French nuns in the church of the Trinità dei Monti in Rome. In 1838 the Three Motets set to Catholic Latin texts were published in a revised form which included the O beata et benedicta that he decided to replace with another motet the substantial Surrexit pastor bonus.

Noteworthy is the masterly singing of captivating reverence throughout the Drei Motetten (Three Motets) from the women of the Stuttgart choir. The inclusion of the accompanying organ adding weight and colour is striking. It’s a pity that it is not always possible to identify the names of each individual soloist. Opening the set is the motet Veni Domine (Come, O Lord our God) for SSA choir and organ, Op. 39/1 in G minor that uses a medieval Latin text for the season of Advent. I just loved the bewitching entry of the soloist at 1:43 and the addition of the second soloist at 1:53.

The motet Op. 39/2 Laudate pueri Dominum (O ye that serve the Lord) for SSA soloists, SSA choir and organ takes its text from Psalms 113: 1, 2 and 128: 1. The motet has two sections an Allegro moderato assai in E flat major and an Adagio in A flat major. Of special note at 2:51 are the angelic soloists the sopranos Iris-Anna Deckert-Utz and Judith Decker, and alto Elke Rutz making their gloriously uplifting entrance.

The final motet of the set of three is Surrexit pastor bonus (The Shepherd blest is risen) for SSAA soloists, SSAA choir and organ, Op. 39/3. In four sections this substantial G major motet uses texts from John’s Gospel. Frieder Bernius has selected as soloists the sopranos Iris-Anna Deckert-Utz and Maria Bernius, and altos Ute Feuerecker and Elke Rutz. I found the entrances of the solo soprano at 2:31 and the quite remarkable alto soloist at 4:33 especially enthralling. To conclude the score the exuberant and stirring Alleluia from 5:34 expands for a time to eight parts.

The German settings Zwei geistliche Lieder (Two Sacred Songs), Op. 112 were composed by Mendelssohn around 1834/36. Originally intended as part of his oratorio St. Paul, Op. 36 Mendelssohn chose not to include the songs. For a number of years Mendelssohn left the songs unpublished finally allowing Simrock to issue them in 1868. These versions of the Zwei geistliche Lieder (Two Sacred Songs) for soprano soloist and organ (or piano) are evidently the only ones to have survived.

An Allegretto in E major the arioso Doch der Herr, er leitet die Irrenden recht (Now the Lord, he guides every sinner aright) Op. 112/1 employs a text from the Psalm 25. The song was replaced in St. Paul by the short arioso Doch der Herr vergißt der Seinen nicht (But the Lord is mindful of His own). With the serene character of this satisfying setting the convincing and mellow tones of distinguished soprano Ruth Ziesak guides sinners to the Lord’s way of the truth.

The arioso Der du die Menschen lässest sterben und sprichst (Thou who dost cause all men to perish and sayest) Op. 112/2 in F major uses a text from Psalm 90. It was intended in St. Paul to follow the chorale No. 9 Dir, Herr, dir will ich mich ergeben (To thee, O Lord, I yield my spirit). Assisted by her enviably secure tuning Ruth Ziesak compellingly beseeches God’s children to return to his care.

The motet Jauchzet dem Herrn, alle Welt (Sing for joy to God, all the earth) is the second of the Three Motets, Op.69 from 1847. Comprising the Jubilate Deo, Nunc Dimittis and Magnificat the Three Motets were originally conceived as English Church Pieces with texts for the Anglican service and later translated into the German text presented here. The Jubilate from the Three Motets, Op.69 the Jauchzet dem Herrn, alle Welt is scored for SATB choir. It seems that the Jubilate was added to Mendelssohn’s Te Deum (1832) at the behest of publisher Edward Buxton of Ewer & Company, London and issued together in 1847 without being allocated an opus number. For their English publication an organ part was added. This posthumous German edition is a setting of Psalm 100 including the addition of the doxology Ehre sei dem Vater (Gloria Patri / Glory to the Father); that had been composed earlier in 1844. I remain unsure why the set of all Three Motets, Op.69 are not presented together on one volume in their number order. Incidentally the two other motets in the Op. 69 set the Nunc dimittis and the Magnificat are contained on volume 1 of this series.

Mendelssohn’s rather sombre coloration to the setting Jauchzet dem Herrn, alle Welt (Sing for joy to God, all the earth) scored for mixed a-cappella choir doesn’t really reflect the joyousness and ebullient nature of the text. The mixed voices of Frieder Bernius’s Kammerchor convey a wistful character to this devotional music. At 4:22 the short F major hymn of praise to God Ehre sei dem Vater (Gloria Patri / Glory to the Father) provides a subtle contrast without altering the contemplative tone of the score.

One the most famous movements in Mendelssohn’s oratorio Elijah, Op. 70 (1846) is the a-cappella trio of Angels for two sopranos and alto Hebe deine Augen auf (Lift thine Eyes) a German setting of Psalm 121: 1-3. Contained here is the motet version of Hebe deine Augen auf (Lift thine Eyes) scored for three-part women’s SSA a-cappella choir; that represents a chorus of Angels. With appropriate reverence Frieder Bernius’s seraphic women’s chorus provide solace and peaceful resignation to their performance. Especially moving is their glorious rendition of the inspirational text Deine Hilfe kommt vom herrn (Thy help cometh from the Lord). 

Seven of the scores on this volume employ the accompaniment of the Engelfried organ of the Evangelischen Kirche Petrus und Paulus at Gönningen built in 1844 by Franz Xaver Engelfried of Horb. Containing 2 manuals and pedals with 24 stops (3 reed registers) the Engelfried organ is one of the few early romantic organs that still survive in Germany; a remarkable construction for a village church. A popular choice for recordings the renowned instrument is expertly played by Sonntraud Engels-Benz blending power and considerable sensitivity.

In addition to the truly magnificent singing from the Kammerchor Stuttgart and soloists I can report clear and well balanced sound quality from the Gönningen Parish church. This volume contains full English translations of the texts and an interesting and informative English essay is provided too.

Sacred Choral Music, Vol. 8
Volume 8 of the series titled Magnificat comprises five sacred scores for chorus and orchestra. The disc features the Magnificat and Gloria both written as a pair. These were Mendelssohn’s first large-scale scores composed for reasons other than study purposes. I found the imperious nineteen-voice motet Tu es Petrus to be a highlight of the disc.

The opening score on the disc is the Magnificat in D major from 1822 a seven movement Latin setting for SATB soloists, S(S)ATB choir and orchestra. In 1821/22 Mendelssohn had begun to move away from composing short motets with German texts. For his first major sacred scores the Magnificat and the Gloria the thirteen year old composer used texts that were firmly rooted in the Catholic liturgy. Both scores were intended for performance at one of the Sonntagsmusiken (Sunday musicales) held in the Mendelssohn Berlin home. This house was at Neue Promenade as the Mendelssohn family did not move to the large mansion in the Leipziger Straße situated on the outskirts of the city near the Potsdam Gate until 1825. Performances may also have taken place at the Freitagsmusiken (Friday musicales) at the Berlin Singakademie with Carl Zelter.

Looking back to the work of the same name by J. S. Bach, his life-long inspiration, Mendelssohn’s Magnificat uses a Latin text from Luke’s Gospel 1: 46-55. In addition Mendelssohn’s score has a connection to C.P.E. Bach’s 1749 setting that employs the equivalent text.

The opening movement Magnificat anima mea Dominum (All my spirit exalts the Lord) for chorus is expressive and uplifting; a joyous exaltation to the Lord. In the Quia respexit humilitatem ancillae suae (For he hath regarded the humility of his handmaid) soprano Andrea Lauren Brown displays a voice of calm and luminous purity in gratitude for God’s grace. The responsive chorus and the delicate and melodic orchestral accompaniment are outstanding. With unadulterated respect bass Michael Volle performs his challenging aria Fecit potentiam in brachio suo (He has shewed might with his arm) as a deeply personal declamation of faith.

The trio of soprano Andrea Lauren Brown, alto Monica Groop and bass Michael Volle conveys a pious expression of gratitude for the Lord’s equality of approach to mankind in the movement Deposuit potentes de sede (He hath put down the mighty from their seat). I enjoyed the effortlessly controlled interpretation from the four excellent soloists; soprano Maria Bernius, alto Ute Feuerecker, tenor Tobias Mäthger, and bass Adolph Seidel giving praise to the Godhead in the jubilant movement Gloria Patri, et Filio, et Spiritui Sancto (Glory be to God the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit).

In his set of eight chorale settings for the Protestant liturgy Mendelssohn adopted a style modelled on J.S. Bach and also G.F. Handel. Dated 1828 to a text by Johann Franck (1653) the chorale cantata Jesu meine Freude (Jesu, thou my pleasure) is scored for SATB choir and orchestra. This the first of Mendelssohn’s chorale cantatas is designed on a rather modest scale compared to some of his other chorale settings. In the central section of the cantata I especially savoured the key change to E major from E minor at 3:41 complete with noticeably lighter accompaniment. At 4:05 the rendition of the words Gottes Lamm, mein Bräutigam (Lamb of God my Prince adored) communicates a reverential atmosphere combined with a sense of tender innocence; of almost a pastoral quality.

The imperious motet Tu es Petrus (Thou art Peter) in A major, Op. 111 is scored for SSATB choir and orchestra. It seems that in 1827 Mendelssohn gave his sister the motet as a birthday present, a score that he had planned to publish as his very first sacred work. Mendelssohn’s setting, essentially a Catholic Latin text from Matthew chapter 16: 18, resulted in a number of Mendelssohn’s circle of friends wondering if he might be converting to Roman Catholicism. At this point I am reminded that Mendelssohn composed several other Catholic settings including: the motet Hora Est (1828), Psalm 115, Op. 31 (1833), the Three Motets, Op. 39 (1830) and the Lauda Sion, Op. 73 (1846).

With a rapt devotion Frieder Bernius’s Kammerchor intone the words Tu es Petrus et super hanc petram ædificabo ecclesiam meam (Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I shall build my church). Remarkably it felt like bright and glistening shafts of light were appearing throughout the densely textured score.

Last but one in the series of chorale cantatas is Wir glauben all an einen Gott (We all believe in one true God). Scored for SATB choir and orchestra and completed in 1831 Mendelssohn’s three movement setting is based on Martin Luther’s German Creed. This exuberant declaration of faith to the Holy Trinity is written on an imposing scale containing significant weight and power. I was especially struck by the fervent closing movement Wir glauben an den Heiligen Geist (And we confess the Holy Ghost) that makes an immediate impact in this thunderous rendition from the Stuttgart singers and the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie directed by Frieder Bernius.

A companion work to the Magnificat is the Gloria in E flat major for SSATB soloists, SATB choir and full orchestra also composed in 1822 by the thirteen-year-old Mendelssohn. The influence of his teacher Carl Zelter, who was also director of the Berliner Singakademie, has often been remarked upon. In this six movement Gloria the young Mendelssohn uses a Catholic text from the Latin mass.

With regard to the annotation it is confusing who the individual soloists are in each of the six movements of the Gloria. If I read it correctly, we have as soloists the alto Monica Groop and the tenor Werner Güra. In addition a quintet of Kammerchor members are named as soloists for some of the movements, namely sopranos Maria Bernius and Stefanie Fels, alto Ute Feuerecker, tenor Tobias Mäthger and bass Adolph Seidel.

A highlight of the Gloria for me was the trio of soloists sweetly transcendent, beseeching to God in the second movement Laudamus te (We praise thee). In stark contrast the chorus enter at 2:02 with an impassioned outburst of the words glorificamus te (we glorify thee). In the third movement Gratias agimus tibi (We give Thee thanks) the outstanding quintet of soloists convey magnificent singing that radiates a joyous prayer of thanksgiving to the Lord. The assured players of the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie provide light and colourful accompaniment.

A highlight of the Gloria is the dignified and effortlessly controlled duet between the tenor and alto in the Domine Deus, Rex caelestis (Lord God, heavenly King). Here I have guessed that the tenor is Werner Güra and the alto is Monica Groop. For chorus the movement Qui tollis peccata mundi (Thou who takes away the sins of the world) is described in the essay by Prof. R. Larry Todd as, “highly impressive” and “mysterious.” I experienced this as a remarkable and compelling movement for its impact and contrasting moods that shine down upon on the listener like a celestial light. The outstanding quartet of soloists commence the final movement Quoniam tu solus Sanctus (For Thou alone art the Holy One) followed by the ebullient and driving part for the Kammerchor. The consistently high standard playing of the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen under Frieder Bernius deserves credit. 

The booklet includes an English essay and the texts have full English translations. From the annotation the identities of the individual soloists are not always apparent. This lapse is a real shame as it only feels proper to be able to give appropriate credit to the correct soloist. The recording was made at the Evangelischen Stadtkirche in Schwaigern. I played this hybrid SACD on my standard players and can report a pleasing if not outstanding sound quality.
 
Sacred Choral Music, Vol. 9
Volume 9 in the series is titled Herr Gott, dich loben wir and contains 16 sacred scores mainly with orchestral accompaniment. The feature work of the volume is the chorale Herr Gott, dich loben wir (Lord God, we praise we sing) that was premiered in 1843 and languished in obscurity for over 150 years. The setting of Psalm 95, Op. 46 and the Hymne, Op. 96 are the only two works contained on this volume that were published in Mendelssohn’s lifetime.

The German setting of Psalm 95, Kommt, laßt uns anbeten (O! Come let us worship), Op. 46 is scored for SST soloists, SATB choir and orchestra. Mendelssohn completed the cantata-like five movement work in 1838 revising it extensively in 1841 for publication. Psalm 95 received its premiere at the Leipzig Gewandhaus in the winter of 1841. The tenor sings solo at the start and conclusion of the opening movement Kommt, laßt uns anbeten (O! Come let us worship) a plea to bow and kneel in gracious supplication to the Lord. Here soloist Werner Güra is reverentially expressive and clear, although, I was aware of his unobtrusive vibrato.
 
The short soprano solo opens the movement Kommet herzu, lasst uns dem Herrn frohlocken! (Come let us sing, sing to the Lord with gladness!). I assume that the soloist is soprano Andrea Lauren Brown who in her brief part is in pure and fluid voice with an impressive silky timbre. Designed in the form of a canon this is a song of thanksgiving in rejoice to the Lord. I found the weighty and brisk central section for chorus to have an especially uplifting sanctity.

The third movement Denn in seiner Hand ist, was die Erde bringt (In his hands are all the corners of the earth) is a duet for two sopranos. The voices of Andrea Lauren Brown and Maria Bernius blend together splendidly in this call to worship before the Lord. Designed as a fugue movement four Denn sein ist das Meer (For his is the sea) is scored for solo tenor and chorus. Convincing soloist Werner Güra in his responsorial part, and answered by the chorus, is again pleading with the people to bow and worship to the Lord.
 
The fifth and final movement of the setting is Heute, so ihr seine Stimme höret (Henceforth when ye hear his voice entreating). An Andante cast in the bleaker key of G minor, Werner Güra and chorus convincingly proclaim a stringent warning to the people not to err from God’s teaching. 

Mendelssohn’s Ach Gott, vom Himmel sieh darein (O God, look down from heaven on high) is the final of his set of seven chorale cantatas. The cantata is scored for baritone recitative, SATB choir and orchestra. Completed in 1832 the chorale cantata was composed for Johann Nepomuk Schelble at the Frankfurt Cäcilienverein. Mendelssohn scholar and biographer Prof. R. Larry Todd in the accompanying essay describes the cantata as, “a complex of four thematically and tonally related movements.” German texts from a paraphrase of Psalm 12 by Martin Luther are employed in three of the movements with the second movement a setting of Psalm 103 verses 8, 10-11.
 
In the substantial opening movement Ach Gott, vom Himmel sieh darein (O God, look down from heaven on high) the chorus implore God to have mercy on us. In the recitative movement for solo bass Barmherzig und gnädig ist der Herr (The Lord is compassionate and good) Michael Volle is the soloist with astute basso continuo accompaniment. The following movement Das Silber durchs Feur siebenmal (As silver sev’n times in the fire) is an aria for solo bass with noticeably dark orchestral accompaniment taken by Frieder Bernius in a measured tempo. Here the strong and assured tones of Michael Volle compellingly proclaim the surety of God’s word. The chorale cantata concludes with Das wollst du, Gott, bewahren rein (Do thou, O God, protect us all) for chorus imploring God for protection from the corruption by the godless.
 
The next group of sacred scores is the Zwei englische Psalms (Two English Psalms) and the Cantique pour l’Eglise very brief settings scored for a-cappella SATB choir. All three scores only last around three minutes in total.

The first score in the set of three is a setting of verses from Psalm 5. Sung in English, this prayer to God for his assistance, opens with the line Lord, hear the voice of my complaint. The setting of verses from Psalm 31 Defend me, Lord, from shame is the opening line from the second score in the set with David imploring the Lord to set him free from peril. The third setting Cantique pour l’Eglise Wallonne de Francfort: Venez et chantez les louanges (Let us sing the song of praise) is sung to a French text and is a song of praise to the Lord. All three scores contain a light and restful quality, and Frieder Bernius’s Kammerchor with appropriate piety communicate wonderfully secure and attractive vocal sonorities.

The Hymne, Laß, o Herr, mich Hilfe finden (Why, O Lord, delay for ever), Op. 96 is scored for Alto solo, SATB choir and orchestra. The hymn originated as an English commission by Charles Bayles Broadley in 1840 to write a verse anthem for soloists and choir with organ accompaniment on Broadley’s paraphrase of the Psalm 13. It is asserted by Prof. R. Larry Todd in the booklet notes that the text to Laß, o Herr, mich Hilfe finden (Why, O Lord, delay for ever) may have been arranged by Mendelssohn himself; who enjoyed writing poetry. The setting uses an accelerating tempo through the first three movements from Andante to Non lento to Allegro. In compliance with the English anthem tradition each movement commences with a soloist that is answered by the choir. Three years later in 1843 Broadley requested an orchestral version of the score with Mendelssohn using this opportunity to redesign the setting. Consequently Mendelssohn added a Finale, a fugue on the Broadley text Laßt sein heilig Lob uns singen (Let us sing his hallow’d praises). The four movement version performed here is a posthumous 1852 publication titled Hymne, Op. 96.

The first hymn of the series is Laß, o Herr, mich Hilfe finden (Why, O Lord, delay for ever). Finnish singer Monica Groop in the alto role seems perfectly suited to this hymn a relaxing and unhurried Andante. I was struck by her astonishing quality of expression of the text and her pure and smoothly rounded tone. So splendidly performed by the Bremen chamber orchestra, Mendelssohn’s beautiful orchestral writing deserves special praise. Marked Non lento the second hymn Deines Kind's Gebet erhöre (On thy love my heart reposes) is the shortest of the set. Here I felt that the low tessitura of the writing seemed a touch unsuited to Groop’s mezzo-soprano range.

Next the movement Herr, wir trau'n auf deine Güte (Lord, my heart’s devotion raises) is marked Allegro. The hymn is a fine example of the expressive tones that Groop achieves in this sincere declaration of devotion to the Lord. The concluding hymn Laßt sein heilig Lob uns singen (Let us sing his hallow’d praises) is marked Allegro vivace. This fugue for chorus only is a compelling expression of boundless praise to the Lord. 

The set of Sieben Psalmen (Seven Psalms) after Ambrosius L. Lobwasser are scored for SATB choir. I cannot think of a good reason why on this release the seven settings are divided into two blocks. The first four settings are contained together on tracks 17-20 with the remaining three settings positioned later on tracks 26-28. The Psalm settings are straightforward harmonisations of a selection of Psalms from the Genevan Psalter in German translations by Ambrosius L. Lobwasser in 1565.

For practical convenience I have gone out of strict track order here and I am reviewing all seven Psalm settings here as one complete series. The first series of four Psalm settings begin with Psalm 2 Worauf ist doch der Heiden Tun gestellt? (Why do the heathen do these things?); Psalm 24 Dem Herrn der Erdkreis zusteht (The whole earth is the Lord’s); Psalm 31 Auf dich setz ich, Herr, mein Vertrauen (In thee, O Lord, I put my trust) and Psalm 91 Wer in des Allerhöchsten Hut (Whosoever in the care of the All Highest). The remaining three Psalm settings begin with Psalm 93 Gott als ein König gwaltiglich regiert (God reigns powerfully as a King); Psalm 98  Nun singt ein neues Lied dem Herrn (Now sing a new song to the Lord) and the final setting is Psalm 100 Ihr Völker auf der Erde all (All you nations of the earth).

All of the Sieben Psalmen (Seven Psalms) occupy an extremely similar sound world. These very short and undemanding a-cappella settings are gentle and peaceful, almost meditative, miniature scores that display a devout supplication and adoration to the Lord. With remarkable vocal security and beautiful sonority Frieder Bernius’s Stuttgart choir communicated a convincing expression of heavenly images.


The setting of Psalm 98, Singet dem Hern ein neuses Lied (Sing to the Lord a new-made song), Op. 91 is scored for SATB soloists, eight part SATB choir and orchestra. The setting was composed in 1843/44 and designed as an Introit psalm for use before the service proper. According to Prof. R. Larry Todd in the booklet notes this setting of Psalm 98 was, “Mendelssohn’s attempt to circumvent the restrictions on music in the Prussian liturgy, and the King’s preference for a-cappella music.”

The opening movement Singet dem Herrn ein neues Lied (Sing to the Lord a new-made song) has a texture of medium weight and employs only an a-cappella chorus who conveys a near searing sacred fervour. Commencing with a short bass solo the named quartet of soloists are Maria Bernius (soprano), Elke Rutz (alto), Stephan Gahler (tenor) and Adolph Seidel (bass). Also scored for a-cappella chorus with the same quartet of soloists is Der Herr läßt sein Heil verkündigen (The Lord hath made known his salvation) that also has a medium weight feel. I enjoyed the short solo soprano part sung by Maria Bernius that felt like an engaging angelic interlude.
 
Employing a chorus and orchestra complete with trombones and harp the Jauchzet dem Herrn alle Welt (Sing to the Lord, all the earth) is a powerful and uplifting score. In the final movement Er wird den Erdkreis richten (He then shall judge the world) the Kammerchor are joined by the orchestral forces of the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen to accentuate the exultant conclusion with the text Denn er kommt, zu richten das Erdreich (Judge with truth the world and the people); reminiscent of a finale in the Handelian manner.
 
The universally popular Christmas carol (Weihnachtshymne) Hark! the herald angels sing (Gott sei Dank durch alle Welt) is set here in English for SATB choir. The words to the Christmas Carol were written by Charles Wesley in 1739, the brother of John Wesley; founder of the Methodist church. The source of the melody usually used for the Christmas carol is derived from the second chorus Vaterland, in deinen Gauen brach der gold'ne Tag einst an from Mendelssohn’s secular cantata Festgesang an die Künstler (Festival Song) for male chorus and double brass band, Op. 68. Mendelssohn wrote both the Festgesang an die Künstler (Festival Song) and his Lobgesang (Hymn of Praise), Op 52 for the Leipzig Gutenberg festival. The celebrations marked the 400th anniversary of Johannes Gutenberg’s invention of movable type printing. The organist William H. Cummings in 1856 adapted the words of Charles Wesley Hark! the herald angels sing to Mendelssohn’s melody.  

I’m unsure why the carol Hark! the herald angels sing is not sung in the Stuttgart choir’s native German language using the text prepared by Heinrich Held Gott sei Dank durch alle Welt. Not surprisingly the diction of the choir is heavily accented and the word endings are invariably indistinct. Notwithstanding this is gloriously uplifting singing from Frieder Bernius’s poised Kammerchor Stuttgart.

To mark the millennium of the German Reich, established by the Treaty of Verdun in 843, the Prussian King in 1843 commissioned Mendelssohn is compose a new setting of the German Te Deum. Mendelssohn in just two days completed the hymn Herr Gott, dich loben wir (Lord God, thy praise we sing) cast in five very brief movements for SATB soloists, SATB/SATB and orchestra. In August 1843 the Lutheran Te Deum was performed under the composer’s direction in Berlin Cathedral with due pomp and ceremony, that included cannon shots. After the first performance Mendelssohn consigned the score to a drawer. It lay in obscurity within the composer’s musical estate until it was eventually published in 1996 over 150 years later.

The opening movement of the hymn is Herr Gott, dich loben wir (Lord God, thy praise we sing) a score for substantial choral and orchestral forces. By contrast the hymn Dein göttlich Macht und Herrlichkeit (Thy majesty and sovereign might) is a brisker and lighter weighted score in praise of the Holy Trinity. Trombones dominate and provide a majestic quality to the hymn Du König der Ehren Jesu Christ (Christ, King of glory, thee we own).

The hymn Laß uns im Himmel haben teil (O Lord, with all thy saints may we) commences with the quartet of Maria Bernius (soprano), Elke Rutz (alto), Stephan Gahler (tenor) and Adolph Seidel (bass). The entrance of the full chorus with unobtrusive organ accompaniment is most affecting in imploring the Lord to bless and provide us spiritual nourishment. Following straight on is the final hymn Täglich, Herr Gott, loben dich wir (Daily our thanks we sing to thee) scored for noticeable larger choral and orchestral forces in this heartfelt plea for God’s mercy. Throughout the Herr Gott, dich loben wir (Lord God, we praise we sing) the Kammerchor Stuttgart provide impeccable and sensitive singing. In addition, the well balanced and sonorous playing from the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen under conductor Frieder Bernius is extremely impressive, here and throughout the volume.

The booklet includes an English essay from Mendelssohn authority Prof. R. Larry Todd. Of its type this is one of the finest essays that one is likely to encounter. Full English translations of the texts are provided. With regard to the annotation there is a complicated, confusing and contradictory system of identifying the soloists. The recording was made at the Evangelischen Stadtkirche in Schwaigern. I played this hybrid SACD on my standard players and I can report a clear and well balanced sound quality.

Sacred Choral Music, Vol. 10
Recorded in 2008 at Schwaigern in Germany, volume 10 is the most recently recorded of the whole set. The Lobgesang (Hymn of Praise), Op 52 has been described as a Symphonie-Kantate (Symphony Cantata). Also known as the Symphony No. 2 this score is surely the least known of Mendelssohn’s symphonic output.

The Lobgesang (Hymn of Praise) was composed as a result of Mendelssohn receiving a commission to write a cantata suitable for a celebratory concert in 1840 at the Thomaskirche, Leipzig; the church whose most famous Kapellmeister had been J. S. Bach. The concert was part of the celebrations to mark the 400th anniversary of the invention of movable type printing by Johannes Gutenberg that was being commemorated by a festival in Leipzig; a town at the heart of the German book industry. As part of the three day Leipzig Gutenberg festival the premiere of the Lobgesang (Hymn of Praise) was given at the Thomaskirche in June 1840. Mendelssohn selected the words himself from the Lutheran Bible, mainly verses from the Psalms, Isaiah and two of Paul’s Epistles. As mentioned in volume 9 Mendelssohn also composed the Festgesang an die Künstler (Festival Song) for the Gutenberg festival celebrations.

The Mendelssohn family colloquially referred to the Lobgesang (Hymn of Praise) as the “printers’ cantata.” However, it was Mendelssohn’s friend Karl Klingemann who named the Lobgesang (Hymn of Praise) a, “symphony-cantata.” Biographer Prof. R. Larry ToddI, who also writes the booklet notes for this disc, describes the Lobgesang (Hymn of Praise) as, “a hybrid concatenation linking three symphonic movements to a cantata of nine movements.” The Lobgesang (Hymn of Praise) clearly has the characteristics of both a symphony and a sacred choral work and probably falls between two stools. This hybrid nature is probably the reason why the Lobgesang (Hymn of Praise) has struggled to gain a hold on the repertoire.

In the nineteenth century the Lobgesang (Hymn of Praise) was an extremely popular work before falling out of general favour. Prof. R. Larry Todd contends in the notes that the score in the last couple of decades has begun to enjoy a revival in popularity. From my experience it is still rarely performed in the U.K. There are, however, several recordings of the work available.

The Lobgesang (Hymn of Praise) opens with a Sinfonia cast in three sections. The opening section a Maestoso con moto for full orchestra has a heroic quality that feels more like the opening to a late-Romantic symphony than a sacred choral work. Outstandingly performed by the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen and driven forward with considerable momentum under the expert direction of Frieder Bernius. The section closes with a sensitively played clarinet solo at 10:36-10:58. Marked Allegretto un poco agitato the second section is warm and comforting. Initially this feels like light music of an almost pastoral quality with no suggestion of a sacred character. However, a central core at 2:40-4:16 reveals a chorale-like melody in G major intoned in the winds and suggestive of a call to worship. In D major the final orchestral section marked Adagio religioso has a more serious character with considerable emphasis placed on the consistently dark coloration from the low strings and wind.  

The second movement is scored for solo soprano, chorus and orchestra. The entrance of the choir with the words Alles, was Odem hat, lobe den Herrn (All men, all things, all that have life and breath) makes a profound impression. Reverential and expressive it maintains throughout a considerable weight of sound to honour and extol a virtuous Lord. At 4:46 the entrance of soprano Christiane Karg seems to lighten the proceedings. It felt that Karg’s voice was bathing me in a bright and piecing sacred light. I did however have some minor concerns over the clarity of her diction.

In the third movement the tenor Werner Güra provides the recitative Sagt es, die ihr erlöst seid durch den Herrn (Sing ye praise, all ye redeemed of the Lord). Crystal clear enunciation from Güra in laudation and gratitude for the goodness of the Lord.  Scored for chorus the short fourth movement Sagt es, die ihr erlöst seid (All ye that cried unto the Lord) is performed by the Stuttgart singers with rapt vocal security in penitence to the Lord for his help in time of need.

Unquestionably the best-known section of Lobgesang (Hymn of Praise) is the duet for sopranos with chorus Ich harrete des Herrn (I Waited for the Lord) which forms the fifth movement. From the very beginning this movement has a dramatic effect. At the Thomaskirche première of the score Robert Schumann wrote, “…it was like a glimpse of a Heaven filled with Raphael Madonnas.” Sopranos Christiane Karg and Maria Bernius are splendidly matched vocalists providing expressive detail in this gloriously devotional E flat major duet proclaiming blessed are those who trust in the Lord.

Movement six Stricke des Todes (The sorrows of death) is a dark and serious tenor solo. Werner Güra’s impassioned conviction is laudable. In spite of some unevenness when under pressure he declares a doom laden warning that the sorrows of death are all around. The gloom begins to lighten at 3:51 with the welcome entrance of the bright toned soprano supplicating Die Nacht ist vergangen! (The night is departing!).
 
The same words commence the seventh movement Die Nacht ist vergangen (The night is departing) scored for chorus. With a brisk tempo the Stuttgart choir are noticeably dramatic and secure with the exaltation to all men und ergreifen die Waffen des Lichts! (let us gird on the armour of light!). The words Nun danket alle Gott (Let all men praise the Lord) opens the eighth movement for chorus that comprises two verses of text. I recall this well loved melody being a popular choice for school anthems. The admirably matched voices of Frieder Bernius’s Kammerchor powerfully convey messages of supplication for praise and glory to the Lord and the Holy Trinity.

Marked Andante sostenuto assai, movement nine Drum sing’ ich mit meinem Liede (My song shall be therefore thy mercy) is a duet performed by tenor Werner Güra and soprano Christiane Karg. Their agreeably contrasted voices communicate a devotional and unsullied declaration that the Lord redeems with watchful goodness. The score concludes with the text Ihr Völker, bringet her dem Herrn Ehre und Macht (Ye nations, offer to the Lord glory and might). Marked Allegro non troppo the movement is a vigorous choral fugue in which the Kammerchor respond with impressive commitment displaying a firm grasp of the text in supplication to the Lord and in praise of his holy name. The Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie under the direction of Frieder Bernius provide marvellously steadfast support that never overwhelms the soloists or chorus; supplying a broad range of orchestral colours.

This Carus release was recorded in super-audio at the Evangelische Stadtkirche, Schwaigern in Germany. I played this hybrid SACD on my standard players and I can report good clarity and a well balance sound. There are English translations of the text and an outstanding English essay by Prof. R. Larry Todd is provided.

Of the alternative accounts of the Lobgesang (Hymn of Praise) I have heard several that are worthy of attention. There is a regal, coherent and penetrating performance of the Lobgesang from Claus Peter Flor conducting the Bamberg Symphony Orchestra and Choir. The soloists are sopranos Lucia Popp and Julie Kaufmann and tenor Josef Protschka. Recorded in 1989 at Bamberg, Germany as part of a 6 disc set of the Mendelssohn complete symphonies, on RCA Red Seal 82876-67885-2. The merits are clear for the acclaimed 1985 version of the Lobgesang from the London Symphony Orchestra and Chorus under Claudio Abbado on Deutsche Grammophon 423 143-2. At Walthamstow Town Hall in London, Abbado assembled a sensitive trio of soloists Elizabeth Connell, Karita Mattila and Hans Peter Blochwitz together with the excellent London Symphony Chorus.

In the Lobgesang I am also fond of the expressive account from the Das Neue Orchester and the Chorus Musicus Köln under Christoph Spering. The conductor, the founder of both ensembles, is an advocate of historic performance practice and employs period instruments. The 1994 release is on the Opus 111 label, OP 30-98. I found the performances from Spering’s splendid team of soloists Soile Isokoski, Mechthild Bach and Frieder Lang outstanding. Herbert von Karajan made a splendidly performed recording of the Lobgesang in 1972 with the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra and the Berlin Opera Chorus that also has the benefit of outstanding sound. Karajan’s trio of soloists are Edith Mathis, Liselotte Rebmann and Werner Hollweg on Deutsche Grammophon 431 471-2.

Sacred Choral Music, Vol. 11
This eleventh volume in the series contains the mighty oratorio St. Paul (Paulus). According to biographer Michael P. SteinbergM, “St. Paul was written in the aftermath of Abraham Mendelssohn’s death and as a tribute to his memory.” The German pianist and musicologist Edward DannreutherL viewed that St. Paul was written probably for festival concert performance purposes with a devotional spirit rather than purely for ecclesiastical reasons.

Mendelssohn composed the oratorio St. Paul, Op. 36 for solo voices, chorus, orchestra and organ in 1834/36. Assisted by pastor Julius Schubring, Mendelssohn prepared the text from the subjects of the New Testament of the Bible centring the oratorio on the book of St. Paul, focussing on the martyrdom of St. Stephen and the conversion of Saul of Tarsus to St. Paul.
 
St. Paul was a tremendous success at its première at the Lower Rhine festival in Düsseldorf, Germany in 1836 giving the twenty-seven year old Mendelssohn his international breakthrough. The English première of St. Paul conducted by the composer at the Birmingham Music Festival in 1837 with the world-famous Jenny Lind in the soprano role was a sensation. In the eyes of musicologist Francis Toye for Mendelssohn the triumph of St. Paul, “eventually established him, in England in particular, as the legitimate successor to Handel.” Many performances soon followed throughout Europe, Russia and also in the USA. St. Paul was probably Mendelssohn’s most admired score in his lifetime. Composer Robert Schumann remarked upon the, “indelible colour of instrumentation” and the, “masterful playing with all the forms of the art of composition” describing it as a, “jewel of the present.” However, St. Paul has not achieved the same enduring level of greatness to that of his later oratorio Elijah; a more mature score that is performed more often with a far larger number of available recordings in the catalogues. St. Paul is cast in two large sections. According to music writer David EwenN the first section is, “essentially dramatic” and the second section, “lyrical and contemplative”. On this Carus recording the text is sung in German.

Part one of St. Paul contains numerous highlights and is I feel the more successful of the two sections. I was struck by how much the robust and elaborate opening chorus Herr, der du bist der Gott (Lord, Thou alone art God) reminded me of Handel’s Coronation Anthem Zadok the Priest (HWV 258). I admired the splendid declamation from the soprano Maria Cristina Kiehr in the aria Jerusalem, die du tötest die Propheten (Jerusalem! Thy that killest the Prophets). The shock and abhorrence conveyed by Werner Güra is highly impressive in his tenor aria Und sie steinigten ihn (And they stoned him).

A main feature of the score is the soothing strains of the Stuttgart choir in Siehe, wir preisen selig, die erduldet haben (Happy and blest are they who have endured!). There is remorse and sorrow in abundance from Michael Volle in the bass ‘rage’ aria Vertilge sie, Herr Zebaoth (Consume them all, Lord Saboath!). I found most convincing the outburst of anger and loathing from Michael Volle in the bass aria Gott, sei mir gnädig nach deiner Güte (O God, have mercy on me). Here one cannot fail to be impressed by the excellent woodwind accompaniment. Of special note is yet another bass aria Ich danke dir, Herr, mein Gott! (I praise thee, O Lord, my God!) where Saul’s prayer of deliverance is answered by the mixed voices of Frieder Bernius’s Kammerchor acclaiming God is good.

Part two of St. Paul is generally considered to have a reduced dramatic quality and is, I believe, of rather less interest than the first part. Reverential and moving the duet for tenor and bass So sind wir nun Botschafter an Christi Statt (Now we are Ambassadors in the name of Christ) and Denn also hat der Herr geboten (For so hath the Lord himself commanded) are impressively performed. Dramatic and powerful, the extended bass aria from Michael Volle Ihr Männer, was macht ihr da? (O wherefore do ye these things?) makes a considerable impression as does Werner Güra in his tenor cavatina Sei getreu bis in den Tod (Be thou faithful unto death). Here I was struck by the outstanding playing of the soloist in the obbligato cello part. A telling impact of strength and intensity is made by the two awe inspiring final choruses Sehet, welch eine Liebe hats uns der Vater erzeiget (See what love hath the Father bestowed on us) and Nicht aber ihm allein, sondern allen (Not only unto him). Both are superbly performed by Frieder Bernius’s compelling Kammerchor with confident support from the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie.

This volume was not recorded in an ecclesiastical setting but at the Forum at Ludwigsburg, near Stuttgart. I played this hybrid SACD on my standard players and the sound quality is of a consistently high standard. The index inside the booklet gives the incorrect numbers for the movements 43 and 44. An English translation of the text is provided and there is an authoritative essay from Prof. R. Larry Todd. 

With regard to alternative recordings of St. Paul I have considerable affection for the 1995 Montreux account using period instruments under the direction of Philippe Herreweghe. The quartet of soloists, Melanie Diener (soprano); Annette Markert (mezzo-soprano); James Taylor (tenor) and Matthias Görne (baritone) are joined by the Collegium Vocale Gent; La Chapelle Royale and the Orchestre des Champs-Élysées on Harmonia MundiD. I admire the version from conductor Christoph Spering with Das Neue Orchester and the Chorus Musicus Köln that employs period instruments and historic performance practice. Spering’s gifted group of soloists are Soile Isokoski (soprano), Mechthild Georg (mezzo), Rainer Trost (tenor) and baritone Peter Lika; released in 1995 on Opus 111 OPS30-135/6.

Another alternative version of St. Paul from my collection that I can recommend is the 1994 Dvořák Hall, Prague performance from the baton of conductor Helmuth Rilling with the Gächinger Kantorei Stuttgart; Prager Kammerchor and the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra. The talented quartet of soloists are Juliane Banse (soprano); Ingeborg Danz (alto); Michael Schade (tenor); Andreas Schmidt (bass) on Brilliant ClassicsH. The coupling is a splendid performance from Helmuth Rilling of Elijah. See review http://www.musicweb-international.com/classrev/2003/Apr03/Mendelssohn_Elias.htm

Sacred Choral Music, Vol. 12
Elijah is regarded as a landmark of Mendelssohn’s oeuvre and the most famous oratorio of the nineteenth century. Undisputed as a masterpiece Elijah is Mendelssohn’s second great oratorio and was completed just a year before his premature death. The Birmingham Music Festival committee in 1845 requested Mendelssohn to compose a new work for them. As he had done with St. Paul Mendelssohn requested the pastor Julius Schubring to assist him in preparing the text. Unlike his earlier oratorio St. Paul that mainly employed texts of the New Testament, Mendelssohn fashioned Elijah on Old Testament texts largely from Kings I and II, depicting various events in the life of the Biblical prophet Elijah. The score was supplemented by texts from Psalms, Isaiah and other Old Testament writings. Mendelssohn designed Elijah in two parts each of which are based around three significant events in Elijah’s life.

Edward DannreutherL the German pianist and musicologist provides a splendid critique of Elijah, “The secret of the greater success - especially in England - the later oratorio, Elijah, lies in its dramatic scheme, and in the enhanced opportunities for solo and concerted music which it afforded the composer. In Elijah, Mendelssohn exhibits his talent at full maturity.” Dannreuther goes on to describe the attributes of Elijah, “Taken as a whole and compared with St. Paul, Elijah stands on a higher plane. It is stronger in spirit, freer, broader, more direct, and less tinged with Lutheran influences.”

The oratorio Elijah is scored for solo voices, chorus, orchestra and organ and was composed in 1844/46. Mendelssohn himself conducted the first performance of the score in 1846 to great acclaim before a packed audience at the Birmingham Music Festival held at the Birmingham Town Hall, England. Elijah has remained a staple of choral music repertory ever since. Conductor Frieder Bernius uses texts in German for this Carus recording.

In Part one the introduction So wahr der Herr, der Gott Israels, lebet (As God the Lord of Israel liveth) a recitative for the bass role of Elijah is given by Michael Volle as a forbidding declamation that the curse of a drought will afflict the people of Israel. The Overture in the form of a fugue has a bleak mood that pertinently reflects the anguish of the people.

Designed as a fugal lament the chorus of the people voice their anguish in movement No. 1 Hilf, Herr! Hilf, Herr! (Help, Lord! Help, Lord!). Worthy of note is Mendelssohn’s darkly coloured orchestral writing performed with distinction by the Klassische Philharmonie Stuttgart. Movement No.2 Herr, höre unser Gebet! (Lord! bow thine ear to our prayer!) includes a beseeching duet Zion streckt ihre Hände aus (Zion speadeth her hands for aid)  between soprano Letizia Scherrer, alto Renée Morloc and chorus sung in glorious reverence and flawless harmony. Obadiah’s aria in No.4 So ihr mich von ganzem Herzen suchet (If with all your hearts ye truly seek me) is sung by tenor Werner Güra intoning crystal clear enunciation and an appropriately expressive restraint.

The troubled chorus of the people in No.5 Aber der Herr sieht es nicht (Yet doth the Lord see it not) sing the curse motive that was heard initially in the first section of the work. At 1:23 the chorale-like melody with the lines Und tue Barmherzigkeit (His mercies on thousands fall) provides a calm and welcome glimpse of vivid blue through a dark and threatening sky. In No.7 the Angels sing Denn er hat seinen Engeln befohlen über dir (For he shall give his Angels charge over thee) scored for double quartet of Ute Schulze (soprano), Maria Bernius (soprano), Ute Feuerecker (alto), Elke Rutz (alto), Jörg Genslein (tenor), Nik Koch (tenor), Alexander Lauer (bass) and Adolph Seidel (bass). This is a wondrously tender and inspiring pronouncement that God has commanded the Angels to protect thee.

Movement No.8. Was hast du an mir getan, du Mann Gottes! (What have I to do with thee? O man of God?) contains the moving ‘widow’s aria’ sung by soprano Letizia Scherrer imploring God for help as her son is dying. I was struck by Scherrer’s clear bright voice that she projects so well. With respectful affection for the text Michael Volle as Elijah makes a moving request to a compassionate God to help his widow’s son. At 6:25 Scherrer and Volle’s short duet von ganzer Seele (and with all my soul) has an inspiring devotional intensity. For chorus No.9 Wohl dem, der den Herrn fürchtet (Blessed are the men who fear him) the Stuttgart singers perform with a striking presence, bright and resilient, acclaiming God’s grace, compassion and righteousness.

Movements Nos.11-13 are a succession of choruses by the Prophets of Baal. With unaffected veneration Frieder Bernius’s Kammerchor are warmly affectionate and committed performers. Elijah’s aria No.14 Herr, Gott Abrahams, Isaaks und Israels (Lord God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel) has a comforting quality with the rich and expressive bass of Michael Volle beseeching the Lord for affirmation for his deeds to the people. The quartet of Ute Schulze (soprano), Sigrun Maria Bornträger (alto), Jörg Genslein (tenor) and Adolph Seidel (bass) are the performers in No.15 Wirf dein Anliegen auf den Herrn (Cast thy burden upon the Lord). A restful and cordial mood prevails as the quartet proclaim that the Lord will never allow the righteous to fall. 

Elijah’s aria No. 17 is a stern and unsettling warning Ist nicht des Herrn Wort wie ein Feuer (Is not his word like a fire?). I loved the way that the rich and persuasive tones of Michael Volle convey such magnificent enunciation in the meaningful text. Movement No.18 Weh ihnen, daß sie von mir weichen! (Woe unto them who forsake him!) is a lyrical arioso sung by the alto Renée Morloc. Her penetrating and emphatic tones provide a stark warning to those transgressors that destruction will fall upon them. With the inundation fast approaching in No. 20 the joyful and spirited Kammerchor portray the chorus of the people offering immense gratitude Dank sei dir Gott, du tränkest das durst'ge Land (Thanks be to God. He laveth the thirsty land).

Part two of Elijah commences with movement No.21 Höre, Israel, höre des Herren Stimme! (Hear ye, Israel, hear what the Lord speaketh) a substantial and brilliant soprano aria in B minor. This is gloriously reverential singing from Letizia Scherrer and another highlight of the release. Throughout I was struck by Scherrer’s purity of tone, impressive projection and impeccable diction. Especially noteworthy is her eloquent and meritorious delivery of the text Ich stärke dich! (I will strengthen thee!). No.22 Fürchte dich nicht, spricht unser Gott (Be not afraid, saith God the Lord) is a stirring chorus delivered with a strong sacred conviction by Frieder Bernius’s Stuttgart choir.

Sung with impressive unanimity the dramatic and chilling chorus of the people announce in No.24 Wehe ihm, er muß sterben! (Woe to him! He shall perish). Extra weight is given to the texture by Mendelssohn’s splendid percussion writing. The great aria No.26 Es ist genug, so nimm nun, Herr, meine Seele (It is enough, O Lord, now take away my life) is Elijah’s movingly sung plea to the Lord for death. The tessitura of the writing seems to suit Michael Volle’s bass voice perfectly. Another highpoint of the score is the trio of Angels comprising of Sarah Wegener (soprano), Maria Bernius (soprano) and Elke Rutz (alto) in No. 28 Hebe deine Augen auf zu den Bergen (Lift thine eyes to the mountain). This is heavenly and beautiful singing from the gifted trio of Kammerchor members. I was bowled over by the rapt solemnity of their rendition of the inspiring text Deine Hilfe kommt vom Herrn (Thy help cometh from the Lord). For chorus No.29 Siehe, der Hüter Israels schläft noch schlummert nicht (He, watching over Israel, slumbers not, nor sleeps) is given a wonderfully uplifting and satisfying performance from the perfectly blended members of Frieder Bernius’s Stuttgart choir. 

Renée Morloc as the Angel in No.31 Sei stille dem Herrn und warte auf ihn (O rest in the Lord, wait patiently for him) gives a fluently controlled performance of her radiant alto aria. Sarah Wegener (soprano), Ute Schulze (soprano), Sigrun Bornträger (alto) and Ute Feuerecker (alto) are the named quartet of soloists in No.35 Heilig, heilig, heilig ist Gott, der Herr Zebaoth (Holy, holy, holy is God the Lord, the Lord Sabaoth). Combining firm security and clarity of focus the quartet, chorus and orchestra are expertly blended. The conspicuous trumpet part provides additional colour to the movement.

I found impressive the long lyrical line of bass soloist Michael Volle in No.37 Ja es sollen wohl Berge weichen (For the mountains shall depart). The tenor aria No.39 Dann werden die Gerechten leuchten wie die Sonne in ihres Vaters Reich (Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in their heavenly Father’s realm) is given a sensitive and dutiful rendition by Werner Güra. In No.41 the section for the quartet Wohlan alle, die ihr durstig seid (O come everyone that thirsteth) is performed by the soloists that I take to be Letizia Scherrer (soprano), Renée Morloc (alto), Werner Güra (tenor) and Michael Volle (bass). This is magnificent interplay between the voices, controlled fluently and always mindful of the correct degree of reverence demanded by the text. 

To close the oratorio is movement No.42 Alsdann wird euer Licht hervorbrechen wie die Morgenröte (And then shall your light break forth as the light of morning breaketh). Here the forceful choral outburst from the Kammerchor is simply magnificent. This is effortlessly managed singing of lofty ecclesiastical veneration from the impeccable forces of the Kammerchor and confident support from the Klassische Philharmonie Stuttgart under Frieder Bernius.

I played this hybrid SACD on my standard players and was thoroughly impressed by the sympathetic and clear acoustic of the Evangelischen Stadtkirche in Schwaigern. Gratifyingly, I can report that English translations of the texts are provided together with an exemplary essay from eminent Mendelssohn biographer Prof. R. Larry Todd.

My recommended alternative recording of Elijah using a German text is from Helmuth Rilling conducting the Gächinger Kantorei Stuttgart and the Bach-Collegium Stuttgart on Brilliant Classics.H I love the great energy and consummate control that Rilling presides over and the list of soloists is impressive, Christine Schäfer (soprano); Cornelia Kallisch (alto); Michael Schade (tenor) and Wolfgang Schöne (baritone). Recorded in 1994 at the Liederhalle, Stuttgart the recording has a first-rate sound quality. The disc is also coupled with an impressive performance from Helmuth Rilling of St. Paul. See musicweb review http://www.musicweb-international.com/classrev/2003/Apr03/Mendelssohn_Elias.htm

I have also enjoyed Philippe Herreweghe’s version of Elijah on period instruments with La Chapelle Royale, Collegium Vocale Gent and Orch. des Champs Elysées. Using a German text this recording from Metz in 1993 has a pleasing cast of soloists, Petteri Salomaa (bass), Soile Isokoski (soprano), Monika Groop (alto) and John Mark Ainsley (tenor) on Harmonia Mundi.F

A very special recording for those wanting a version of Elijah sung in English is conducted by Paul Daniel using a period instrument orchestra and starring Bryn Terfel as Elijah. Probably more dramatic then reverential, the recording has been described by Alan Blyth in Gramophone as, “one of the most dramatic performances of the oratorio on disc, operatic in the best sense of the word.” Released in 1997 the cast of singers include Renée Fleming (soprano), Patricia Bardon (mezzo), Bryn Terfel (bass bar), the Edinburgh Festival Chorus and the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment/Paul Daniel on ‘London’ DeccaK.

With regard to alternative recordings of Mendelssohn’s sacred choral scores there are a number of sets that contain a selection of the scores but nothing that I know of that provides a duplication of the Carus series. Time constraints and the sheer volume of discs in this 12 volume set by Kammerchor Stuttgart/Frieder Bernius on Carus did not allow me to undertake score for score comparisons with other alternative recordings. There are however some fine alternative recordings around in the catalogues. 

A couple of years ago I reviewed a splendid 10 disc Mendelssohn set recorded in 2002 titled the Complete Choral Works from the Chamber Choir of Europe, the Württembergische Philharmonie Reutlingen and various soloists from the Chamber Choir of Europe conducted by Nicol Matt on Brilliant Classics. More accurately the Brilliant Classics set is not the ‘complete choral works’ of Mendelssohn. Firstly there are no secular works. Secondly it is best described as a generous collection of Mendelssohn’s sacred choral works; but not a complete one. The set does not include any of the oratorios St. Paul, Elijah and Christus, and the Lobgesang (Hymn of Praise) - Symphony No. 2. In my review I praised conductor Nicol Matt and his choral and orchestral forces who respond throughout with commendable spirit. His interpretations have enormous concentration, humanity and dignity. The playing has an abundance of drive and brilliance, subtlety and fine detailing. At super budget price this Brilliant Classics set is a steal. See my review.

Another collection of Mendelssohn sacred choral works that I hold in high regard is from conductor Michel Corboz and the Gulbenkian choir and soloists. Containing 7 sacred choral works Corboz recorded this double set in 1977 and 1987 in Lisbon, Portugal. Corboz and his Lisbon forces display fine control and technique, producing an eager sense of atmosphere. The instrumental playing from the Gulbenkian Orchestra, although not without blemish, is dedicated and fresh with plenty of character. I judged the honours equally divided between the impressive singing and the orchestral playing on Warner Classics Apex  2564 61692-2. See my review.

There are a couple of single Mendelssohn discs both titled ‘Sacred Choral Music’ from conductors Richard Marlow and David Hill and recorded in their respective Cambridge college chapels that have received some fine reviews. I have heard both these releases although I do not have them in my collection and they may be worth searching out. The first release is from the Choir of Trinity College under Richard Marlow. Recorded in 2000 the disc contains a section of 8 sacred scores on Chandos CHAN 10363.A  See review.

The second release from the Choir of St John’s College, Cambridge directed by David Hill was recorded in 2005 and contains 12 short sacred scores on Hyperion CDA67558.B
 
The Harmonia Mundi label has done sterling service for Mendelssohn’s sacred choral works and their releases are likely to be encountered in the catalogues. I am aware of 5 of their releases and although I have heard numerous extracts from the discs they are not in my collection. The oratorios St. PaulD and ElijahF plus two separate discs of MotetsCE and PsalmsCE are performed by the renowned choral conductor Philippe Herreweghe who has engaged for his series the Ensemble Orchestral de Paris, La Chapelle Royale, Collegium Vocale Gent and the Orch. des Champs Elysées. Harmonia Mundi also have a disc of Mendelssohn MotetsG and PsalmsG with Marcus Creed directing the RIAS-Kammerchor.

Throughout this Carus series of Mendelssohn’s complete sacred choral music I have noted down the soloists whose performances have delighted me the most. The German born soprano Ruth Ziesak has an outstanding and most assured voice. In this sacred repertoire her impressive interpretations remain consistently devotional. Ziesak seems equally comfortable right across her range, displaying a clear diction and a radiant purity of tone. See my review of Ruth Ziesak’s exceptional Franz Liszt Lieder recital for Berlin Classics; one of my 2008 ‘Records of the Year’:

Of her numerous recordings I especially admire Ziesak’s recording of Sacred works for soprano and orchestra of Mozart, Pergolesi and J.C. Bach with La Stagione under Michael Schneider on Deutsche Harmonia Mundi. See my review.

Argentine born soprano Maria Cristina Kiehr, who sings both the soprano and alto parts in St. Paul, savours the tough assignment and proves to be an impressive soloist. I experienced her captivating performance as appropriately reverential, blended together with impressive clarity of enunciation and a creamy timbre. Julia Hamari a mezzo-soprano who hails from Budapest, Hungary, is also given a solo soprano part and has an engaging and pure voice. She displays a characterful tone especially in her mid register combined with a pious quality. Swiss soprano Letizia Scherrer has a clear bright voice that she projects splendidly, a clean tone and impeccable diction. Finnish mezzo-soprano Monica Groop provides an inspiring expression of the text together with her smoothly rounded tone. Another soprano of note is Andrea Lauren Brown, a native of Delaware, U.S.A., who displays a fluid voice of considerable purity with an impressively creamy timbre. I enjoyed Hungarian soprano Krisztina Laki’s seraphic tones and clear diction.
Werner Güra performs on both St. Paul and Elijah and several other works in the set. The Münich born tenor provides an enthusiastic contribution with his bright and medium weight tones that I thought had a certain Italianate quality. Güra’s vibrato is noticeable yet never obtrusive. Contrasting splendidly is the memorably luxuriant and characterful bass of Michael Volle. The German born Volle is the soloist on both St. Paul and Elijah and appears on a number of other scores. I noticed that on his online biography pages Michael Volle is more often described as a bass than a baritone. Frequently employed throughout the series is Kammerchor Stuttgart member the bass Adolph Seidel. Steadfast and consistently impressive Seidel has a warm rich tone and crystal-clear enunciation. German born tenor Christoph Prégardien also makes a significant impression with his light, smooth and floating tones.

Frieder Bernius’s direction of the Kammerchor Stuttgart is impressive in every way. The founding father in 1968 Bernius has maintained a long and distinguished association with the choir. One senses a special affinity between the partnership of conductor and singer. Across the 12 volumes of the series Frieder Bernius employs six orchestras and their playing is also a fine achievement. From a modest string ensemble to a large symphony orchestra, Frieder Bernius’s consistent interpretations never overwhelm the listener and are always high on sensitivity; containing an especially moving directness of sacred expression. It is clear that reverential quality always takes precedence in the interpretations over drama and power. The sound quality on all the volumes is first class and well balanced; a credit to all concerned. Especially clear are those on SACD, which I played on my standard players. I enjoyed the exemplary and scholarly essays from musicologist Prof. R. Larry Todd that were provided in the last four volumes.

Throughout this survey of Felix Mendelssohn’s complete sacred choral music for the Carus label I was struck by the remarkable consistency of performance and assurance from Bernius and the Kammerchor Stuttgart, his chosen soloists, the various orchestral accompaniment and organists. Something truly special has been achieved by Bernius and his forces, a testament to the dedication and professionalism of all concerned. There is not a weak volume in the whole series with singing that is often beautiful, consistently assured and never less than reverential. Bernius’s impeccable choice of tempi and dynamics always seems appropriate. Frieder Bernius and the Carus label can be justly proud of this remarkable and important achievement with Mendelssohn’s astonishing sacred music. It is especially fitting that this outstanding survey was completed in 2009 to mark the 200th anniversary of Mendelssohn’s birth.

Michael Cookson


Complete Sacred Choral Music on Carus

Full tracklisting and performer details:
 
Sacred Choral Music, Vol. 1
Hör mein Bitten
1) Hymn: Hör mein Bitten (Hear My Prayer)
for soprano soloist, SATB choir and orchestra (1844, orch. 1847) [9:46]
2) Kyrie in C minor for SAATB soloists and SATB/SATB choir (1823) [10:31]
3) Geistliches Lied (Sacred Song), Laß, o Herr, mich Hilfe finden
(Help me, Lord, in my affliction) for alto soloist, SATB choir and organ, Op. 96/1 (1840) [4:33]
4) Motet: Hora est (The hour has come) for baritone solo, SATB/SATB/SATB/SATB choir and organ (1828) [7:54]
5) from three Motets, Op.69: Magnificat, Mein Herz erhebet Gott, den Hern
(My soul Both magnify the Lord) for SATB soloists and SATB choir, Op. 69/3 (1847) [10:42]
6) Salve Regina in E flat major for soprano soloist and strings (c.1824) [7:30]
7) from three Motets, Op.69: Canticum Simeonis (Simeon canticle): Herr, nun lässest du deinen Diener in Frieden fahren (Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace): Nunc dimittis for SATB soloists and SATB choir, Op. 69/1 (1847) [6:22]
Julia Hamari, mezzo-soprano (1, 3, 6)
Monika Meier-Schmid, soprano (2, 5, 7);
Ute Wille, alto (2, 5, 7);
Gabriele Hahn, alto (2);
Georg Kaplan, tenor (5, 7);
Adolph Seidel, bass (4, 5, 7);
Christof Roos, organ (3);
Jon Laukvik, organ (4);
Kammerchor Stuttgart,
Ensemble ‘76 Stuttgart/Frieder Bernius
rec: July 1983. No recording location provided.  DDD
All texts and part of essay provided in English translations.
CARUS 83.101 [56:41]   

Sacred Choral Music, Vol. 2
Vom Himmel Hoch
1-6) Chorale cantata (Weihnachtskantate): Vom Himmel hoch (From Heaven above)
for soprano and baritone soloists, SSATB choir and orchestra
(1831) [16:08]
7) Vesper hymn: Ave maris stella (Hail star of the sea)
for soprano and orchestra (1828) [7:49]
8-19) Ambrosian hymn: Te Deum (We praise thee, O God)
for SATB/SATB soloists, SATB/SATB choir and basso continuo (1826) [34:29]
Krisztina Laki, soprano (1-6, 7);
Berthold Possemeyer, baritone (1-6);
Isolde Assenheimer, alto (9, 11, 16, 18);
Joachim Bendel, tenor (9, 11, 16, 18);
Cornelius Hauptmann, bass (9, 11, 13, 15, 16, 18);
Annegret Horger-Budday soprano (9, 11, 16, 18);
Monika Meier-Schmid, soprano (9, 11, 13, 15, 16, 18);
Adolph Seidel, bass (9, 11, 16, 18);
Mechthild Seitz, alto (9, 11, 13, 16, 15, 18);
Andreas Wagner, tenor (13, 15);
Urs Winter, tenor (9, 11, 16, 18);
Continuo (Te Deum):
Christof Roos, organ;
Hans-Peter Jahn, cello;
Dieter Lassle, double bass;
Kammerchor Stuttgart,
Württembergisches Kammerorchester Heilbronn/Frieder Bernius
rec: April 1985. No recording location provided.  DDD
Texts for only one of the works translated into English. Essay in English provided.
CARUS 83.104 [58:26]   
 
Sacred Choral Music, Vol. 3
Christus
1) Kyrie in D minor for SSATB choir and orchestra (1825) [10:05]
Oratorio (left incomplete): Christus for soloists, choir and orchestra, Op. 97 (1847):
2) First part: Geburt Christi (The Birth of Christ) (soprano solo) [7:21]
3) Second part: Leiden Christi (Suffering Christ) (tenor solo) [12:58]
4) Jube Domne (Grant us, Father) for SATB soloists and SATB/SATB choir, (1822) [5:58]
Three Psalm Motets, for soloists and SATB/SATB choir, (1843/44) Op. 78:
5) Psalm 2: Warum toben die Heiden (Why are the heathen so angry), Op. 78/1
[7:38]
6) Psalm 43: Richte mich, Gott (Judge Me, O God), Op. 78/2 [3:57]
7) Psalm 22: Mein Gott, warum hast du mich verlassen? (My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?), Op. 78/3 [7:39]
8) Motet: Jesus, meine Zuversicht (Jesus my Redeemer lives)
for solo bass, four soloists, SATB choir and organ (1824) [11:21]
Monika Meier-Schmid, soprano (4, 5, 7, 8);
Cornelius Hauptmann, bass (Op. 97, 4, 5, 7, 8);
Isolde Assenheimer, alto (5);
Stefan Dörr,, tenor (5);
Johannes-Christoph Happel, baritone (Op. 97);
Adolph Seidel, bass (5, 7);
Christoph Prégardien, tenor (3, 7);
Dorothea Rieger, soprano (2, 5, 8);
Bernard Scheffel, tenor (4, 5, 7, 8);
Mechthild Seitz, alto (4, 5, 7, 8);
Sonntraud Engels-Benz, organ
Kammerchor Stuttgart,
Mitglieder der Bamberger Symphoniker/Frieder Bernius
rec: May 1987, Pfarrkirche Schwaigern, Germany (1-3) and Pfarrkirche Gönningen (4-8), Germany.  DDD
No English translations of text. English essay provided .
CARUS 83.105 [66:57]
 
Sacred Choral Music, Vol. 4
Wie der Hirsch schreit
1) Psalm 114: Da Israel aus Ägypten zog (When Israel came from Egypt’s land) for SATB/SATB choir and orchestra, Op. 51 (1839-41) [12:16]
2-8) Psalm 42: Wie der Hirsch schreit nach frischem Wasser (As the heart longs for streams of water) for STTBB soloists, SATB choir and orchestra, (1837-38) Op. 42 [23:54]
9-19) Cantata: Lauda Sion (Praise Jehovah) for SATB soloists, SATB choir and orchestra, Op. 73 (1845-46) [30:40]
Ruth Ziesak, soprano (Op. 42, Op. 73);
Helene Schneiderman, alto (Op. 73);
Christoph Prégardien, tenor (Op. 42);
Jan Kobow, tenor (Op. 42, Op. 73);
Gotthold Schwarz, bass (Op. 42);
Adolph Seidel, bass (Op. 42, Op. 73);
Kammerchor Stuttgart,
Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie/Frieder Bernius
English translations of text and essay provided.
rec: June 1996, Evang. Kirch St. Johannes, Schwaigern, Germany.  DDD
CARUS 83.202 [67:10]   
 
Sacred Choral Music, Vol. 5
Denn er hat seinen Engeln befohlen
from Deutschen Liturgie (German Liturgy): Kyrie, Gloria and Sanctus for SATB/SATB choir (1846):
1) Kyrie: Kyrie eleison (Gracious Lord, have mercy) [1:03]
2) Gloria: Ehre sei Gott In der Höhe (And peace to all peoples) [3:41]
3) Sanctus: Heilig, Heilig, Heilig (Holy, Holy, Holy) [1:36]
Drei Kirchenstück (3 Sacred Pieces), Op. 23 (1830):
4) Aus tiefer Not schrei ich zu dir (From depths of grief I call to Thee) for ATB soloists, SATB choir and organ, Op. 23/1 [11:52] 
5) Mitten wir im Leben sind (We now in the Midst of Life) for SSAATTBB choir, Op. 23/3 [6:33]
6) Ave Maria (Hail Mary) for SATB soloists, SSAATTBB choir and organ, Op. 23/2 [6:12]
7) Adspice Domine, Vespergesang (Evensong), Setting of the Response and Hymnus for TTBB soloists and TTBB choir and instrumental bass, Op. 121 (1833) [11:49]  
Sechs Sprüche zum Kirchenjahr (6 Sayings Anthems) for SSAATTBB choir, Op. 79
(1843-46):
8) Im Advent (1846) [1:24]
9) Weihnachten (1843) [1:18]
10) Am Neujahrstage (1843) [3:09]
11) In der Passionszeit (1844) [1:45]
12) Am Karfreitage (1844) [1:52]
13) Am Himmelfahrtstage (1846) [1:23]
14) Jauchzet dem Herrn, alle Welt (Sing to God, all the earth), Setting of Psalm 100, for SSAATTBB choir (1842-44) [4:32]
15) Denn er hat seinen Engeln befohlen über dir (For he shall give his angels charge over thee) for SSAATTBB choir (1844) [3:30]
Bettina Pahn, soprano (1, 4, 6);
Hedwig Westhoff-Duppmann, soprano (4);
Annette Kohler, alto (4);
Lily Seebach, alto (4);
Elke Rutz, alto (1, 2, 6);
Jan Kobow, tenor (1, 2 aria, 4, 5, 6, 7);
Holger Speck, tenor (2 trio, 5, 7);
Andreas Weller, tenor (4, tenor 1);
Matthias Horn, bass (1, 2, 4, 5, 7);
Adolph Seidel, bass (2, 4, 5, 6, 7);
Ulrike Mix, cello;
Eberhardt Maldfeld, double bass;
Detlef Bratschke, organ;
Kammerchor Stuttgart/Frieder Bernius
rec: June/July 1996, Reutlingen-Gönningen, Germany.  DDD
English translations of text and essay provided.
CARUS 83.203 [62:10]   
 
Sacred Choral Music, Vol. 6
Verleih uns Frieden
1-4) Psalm 115, Nicht unserm Namen, Herr (Not unto us, O Lord), Non nobis, Domine for STB soloists, choir and orchestra, Op. 31 (1829-30) [15:46]
5-7) Chorale cantata: O Haupt voll Blut und Wunden (O Head, so bruised and wounded) for bass soloist, choir and orchestra (c.1830/31) [14:25]
8) Chorale cantata: Christe, du Lamm Gottes (Christ, Lamb of God) for choir and orchestra, (1827) [6:32]
9-12) Chorale cantata: Wer nur den lieben Gott läßt walten (If you would let the loving God guide you) for soprano soloist, choir and orchestra [11:27]
13) Chorale cantata: Verleih uns Frieden gnädiglich (Give us peace mercifully) for choir and orchestra [4:22]
Ruth Ziesak, soprano (2);
Christoph Prégardien, tenor (2);
Gotthold Schwarz, bass (3);
Michael Volle, bass (6);
Sabine Ritterbusch, soprano (11);
Gyorgy Bognar, cello (13);
Reinhard Werner, cello (13);
Kammerchor Stuttgart,
Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie/Frieder Bernius (1-4)
Stuttgarter Kammerorchester/Frieder Bernius (5-13)
rec: 1996 at Evangelischen Kirch St. Johannes, Schwaigern, Germany (1-4) and
1998 at Evangelischen Kirche Petrus und Paulus, Gönningen, Reutlingen, Germany (5-13).  DDD
Only texts for 5-12 translated into English. Essay in English provided.
CARUS 83.204 [52:54]   
 
Sacred Choral Music, Vol. 7
Hebe deine Augen auf
1) Abendsegen (short evening prayer): Herr, sei gnädig (Lord, be merciful) for SATB choir (1833) [2:25]
2) Trauergesang (dirge/funeral hymn), Sahst du ihn herniederschweben
(Have you seen him hovering near) for SATB choir, Op. 116 (1845) [5:32]
Zwei geistliche Männerchöre (2 sacred choruses for men’s choir) for TTBB choir, Op. 115 (1837):
3) No. 1 Beati mortui (Blessed are the dead), Op. 115/1 [3:47]
4) No. 2 Periti autem (And they that be wise), Op. 115/2 [2:10]
5) Motet: O beata et benedicta (O beautiful, blessed) for SSA choir and organ (1830) [2:57]
6) Te Deum (We praise thee, O God) in A major for SATB soloists, SATB choir and organ (1832) [8:10]
Drei Motetten (Three Motets) for women’s choir and organ, Op. 39 (1830):
7) Veni Domine (Come, O Lord our God) for SSA choir and organ, Op. 39/1 [3:32]
8) Laudate pueri Dominum (O ye that serve the Lord) for SSA soloists, SSA choir and organ, Op. 39/2 [5:44]
9) Surrexit pastor bonus (The shepherd blest is risen) for SSAA soloists, SSAA choir and organ, Op. 39/3 [7:14]
Zwei geistliche Lieder (2 Sacred Songs) for soprano soloist and organ,
Op. 112 (c.1834/36):
10) Doch der Herr, er leitet die Irrenden recht (Now the Lord, he guides every sinner aright) Op. 112/1
11) Der du die Menschen lässest sterben (Thou who dost cause all men to perish) Op. 112/2
12) Motet: Jauchzet dem Herrn, alle Welt! (Sing for joy to God, all the earth) for SATB choir, Op. 69/2 (1847) [5:54]
13) Hebe deine Augen auf (Lift thine Eyes) (from Elijah, Op. 70) for SSA choir [2:14]
Ruth Ziesak, soprano (10, 11);
Iris-Anna Deckert-Utz, soprano I (6-9);
Judith Decker, soprano II (7, 8);
Maria Bernius, soprano II (9);
Ute Feuerecker, alto I (6, 9);
Elke Rutz, alto II (7-9);
Jörg Genslein, tenor I (3, 6);
Julian Prégardien, tenor II (3);
Friedrich Möller, bass I (3);
Adolph Seidel, bass II (3, 6);
Sonntraud Engels-Benz, organ;
Kammerchor Stuttgart/Frieder Bernius
rec: 18-20 February 2005, Evangelischen Kirche Petrus und Paulus, Reutlingen-Gönningen, Germany.  DDD
English translations of text and English essay provided.
CARUS 83.206 [55:57]   
 
Sacred Choral Music, Vol. 8
Magnificat
1-7) Magnificat in D major for SATB soloists, S(S)ATB choir and orchestra (1822) [24:06]
8) Chorale cantata: Jesu meine Freude (Jesu, thou my pleasure) for SATB choir and orchestra (1828) [7:11]
9) Motet: Tu es Petrus (Thou art Peter) for SSATB choir and orchestra, Op. 111 (1827) [6:36] 
10-12) Chorale cantata: Wir glauben all an einen Gott (We all believe in one true God) for SATB choir and orchestra (1831) [5:56]
13-18) Gloria for SSATB soloists, SATB choir and orchestra (1822) [24:39]
Andrea Lauren Brown, soprano;
Monica Groop, alto;
Werner Güra, tenor;
Michael Volle, bass;
Maria Bernius, soprano (Gloria);
Stefanie Fels, soprano (Gloria);
Ute Feuerecker, alto (Gloria);
Tobias Mäthger, tenor (Gloria);
Adolph Seidel, bass (Gloria);
Kammerchor Stuttgart;
Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen/Frieder Bernius
rec: 2-7 June 2008, Evangelische Stadtkirche, Schwaigern, Germany.  DDD
English translations of text and essay provided.
CARUS 83.216 (SACD) [69:00]   

Sacred Choral Music, Vol. 9
Herr Gott, dich loben wir
1-5) Psalm 95, Kommt, laßt uns anbeten (O! Come let us worship)
for SST soloists, SATB choir and orchestra, Op. 46 (1838, rev. 1841) [24:46]
6-9) Chorale cantata: Ach Gott, vom Himmel sieh darein (O God, look down from heaven on high) for B solo, SATB choir and orchestra (1832) [11:47]
Zwei englische Psalmen (2 English Psalms) and Cantique pour l'Eglise
for SATB choir:
10) Psalm 5 [1:02]
11) Psalm 31 [1:04]
12) Cantique pour l’Eglise Wallonne de Francfort: Venez et chantez les louanges (Let us sing the song of praise) [0:54]  
13-16) Hymne, Laß, o Herr, mich Hilfe finden (Why O Lord, delay for ever)
for Alto solo, SATB choir and orchestra, Op. 96 (1840, rev. 1841 and 1843) [11:18]
from Sieben Psalmen nach Ambrosius L. Lobwasser for SATB choir:
17) Psalm 2 [1:22]
18) Psalm 24 [0:54]
19) Psalm 31 [0:51]
20) Psalm 91 [1:08]
21-24) Psalm 98, Singet dem Herrn ein neues Lied (Sing to the Lord a new-made song) for SATB soloists, SATB choir and orchestra, Op. 91 (1843/44) [6:39]
25) Weihnachtshymne, (Hark! the herald angels sing) for SATB choir [1:40] 
from Sieben Psalmen nach Ambrosius L. Lobwasser for SATB choir:
26) Psalm 93 [0:36]
27) Psalm 98 [1:01]
28) Psalm 100 [0:33]
29-33) Hymne, Herr Gott, dich loben wir (Lord God, thy praise we sing) for SATB soloists, SATB/SATB and orchestra (1843) [6:26]
Andrea Lauren Brown, soprano (Op. 46);
Maria Bernius, soprano (Op. 46, Psalm 98, Herr Gott);
Monika Groop, alto (Op. 96);
Werner Güra, tenor (Op. 46);
Michael Volle, bass (Ach Gott);
Stephan Gähler, tenor (Psalm 98, Herr Gott);
Elke Rutz, alto (Psalm 98, Herr Gott);
Adolph Seidel, bass (Psalm 98, Herr Gott);
Kammerchor Stuttgart
Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen/Frieder Bernius
rec: 2-7 June 2008, Evangelischen Stadtkirche, Schwaigern, Germany.  DDD
English translations of text and essay provided.
CARUS 83.217 (SACD) [72:23]
 
Sacred Choral Music, Vol. 10
Lobgesang
Lobgesang (Hymn of Praise), Symphony No. 2 (Symphony Cantata) for SST soloists, SSAATB choir and orchestra, Op. 52 (1840)
Christiane Karg, soprano (4, 7, 11);
Maria Bernius, soprano (7);
Werner Güra, tenor (5, 8, 11);
Kammerchor Stuttgart,
Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen/Frieder Bernius
rec: 26-28 April 2008, Evangelische Stadtkirche, Schwaigern, Germany.  DDD
English translations of text and essay provided.
Carus 83.213 (SACD) [61:51]

Sacred Choral Music, Vol. 11
Paulus (St. Paul)
Paulus (St. Paul) Oratorio for SATB soloists, SATB choir, orchestra and organ,
Op. 36 (1834-36) [123:49]
Maria Cristina Kiehr, soprano (Ananias, Stephen);
Werner Güra, tenor (Barnabas);
Michael Volle, bass (Saul of Tarsus/St. Paul);
Patrick Pobeschin, bass (4, 42);
Adolph Seidel, bass (4);
Sigrum Maria Borntrager, alto (29, 42);
Maria Bernius, soprano (42);
Julian Prégardien, tenor (42);
Sonntraud Engels-Benz, organ;
Kammerchor Stuttgart
Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen/Frieder Bernius
rec: 16-17, 19 September 2005 at Forum Ludwigsburg, Germany.  DDD
English translations of text and essay provided.
CARUS 83.214 (SACD) [2 CDs: 70:01 + 53:48]   
 
Sacred Choral Music, Vol. 12
Elijah
Elijah, Oratorio for SATB soloists, SATB choir, orchestra and organ, Op. 70 (1844-46) [128:40]
Letizia Scherrer, soprano (Widow, Youth, Angel);
Renée Morloc, alto (Angel);
Werner Güra, tenor (Obadiah);
Michael Volle, bass (Elijah);
Sarah Wegener, soprano (child)
Ute Schulze, soprano (7, 15, 35);
Maria Bernius, soprano (7, 28);
Ute Feuerecker, alto (7, 35);
Elke Rutz, alto (7, 28);
Jörg Genslein, tenor (7, 15);
Nik Koch, tenor (7);
Alexander Lauer, bass (7);
Adolph Seidel, bass (7, 15);
Sarah Wegener, soprano (19, 28, 35);
Sigrun Maria Bornträger, alto (15, 35);
Kammerchor Stuttgart
Klassische Philharmonie Stuttgart/Frieder Bernius
rec: 3-5 January 2007, Evangelische Stadtkirche, Schwaigern, Germany.  DDD
English translations of text and English essay provided.
CARUS 83.215 (SACD) [2 CDs: 65:21 + 63:19]   

Footnotes:

ASechs Spruche, Op. 79; ‘Hear my Prayer’; Beati Mortui, Op. 115, No. 1; Die deutsche Liturgie; Ave Maria Op. 23, No. 2; 100th Psalm; Laudate Pueri, Op. 39, No. 2; Magnificat Op. 69, No. 3.
The Choir of Trinity College/Richard Marlow
Chandos CHAN 10363

BAus tiefer Not, Op. 23/1; Ave maria, Op. 23/2; Mitten wir im Leben sind, Op. 23/3; Hor mein Bitten, Op. posth; Warum toben die heiden, Op. 78/1; Richte mich Gott, Op. 78/2; Zum Abendsegen, Op. posth; Kyrie eleison, Op. Posth; Heilig, heilig ist Gott, der Herr Zebaoth, Op. posth.; Ehre sei Gott in der Hohe, Op. posth; Verleih' uns Frieden, Op. posth; ‘O for the wings of a dove’ from Hör mein Bitten, Op. posth.
The Choir of St John’s College, Cambridge/David Hill
Hyperion CDA67558.
 
C Psalm 42, Op.42 Wie der Hirsch schreit nach frischem Wasser; Verleih uns Frieden gnädiglich; Psaume 115, Op. 31; Nicht unserm Namen, Herr; Ave Maria, Op.23/2
Ensemble Orchestral de Paris,
La Chapelle Royale, Collegium Vocale/Philippe Herreweghe
Harmonia Mundi HMC901272

D St. Paul
Soloists: Melanie Diener (soprano); Annette Markert (mezzo-soprano); James Taylor (tenor) and Matthias Görne (baritone). On period instruments with La Chapelle Royale, Collegium Vocale Gent Orchestre des Champs-Elysées/Philippe Herreweghe
Harmonia Mundi HMC901584.85

E Warum toben die Heiden, Op.78/1; Mein Gott, warum hast du mich verlassen? Op. 78/3; Herr, nun lässest du deinen Diener in Frieden fahren, Op.69/1; Ehre sei Gott in der Höhe; Mitten wir im Leben sind, Op.23/3; Sechs Sprüche, Op. 79; Hymne "Hör mein Bitten, Herr.
La Chapelle Royale - Collegium Vocale Gent/Philippe Herreweghe
Harmonia Mundi HMA1951142

F Elijah
Soloists: Petteri Salomaa (bass), Soile Isokoski (soprano), Monika Groop (alto) and John mark Ainsley (tenor). On period instruments with Orch. des Champs Elysées/Philippe Herreweghe
Harmonia Mundi HMC901463.64

G Psalm 100 Jauchzet dem Herrn alle Welt; Psalm 2, Op. 78/1 Warum toben die Heiden; Psalm 43, Op. 78/2 Richte mich, Gott; Psalm 22, Op. 78/3 Mein Gott, warum hast du mich verlassen?; Choral motet Op. 23/3 Mitten wir in Leben sind; Motet, Op. 69/1 Herr, nun lässest du deinen Diener in Frieden fahren; Motet, Op. 69/2 Jauchzet dem Herrn alle Welt; Motet, Op. 69/3 Mein Herz erhebet Gott, den Herrn; Die Deutsche Liturgie, Missa breve; Zum Abendsegen Herr, sei gnädig unserm Flehn
RIAS-Kammerchor/Marcus Creed
Harmonia Mundi HMC901704
 
H St. Paul and Elijah
St. Paul
Soloists: Juliane Banse (soprano); Ingeborg Danz (alto); Michael Schade (tenor); Andreas Schmidt (bass) with the Gächinger Kantorei Stuttgart; Prager Kammerchor and the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra/Helmuth Rilling.
Elijah
Soloists: Christine Schäfer (soprano); Cornelia Kallisch (alto); Michael Schade (tenor); Wolfgang Schöne (baritone) with the Gächinger Kantorei Stuttgart
Bach-Collegium Stuttgart/Helmuth Rilling
Brilliant Classics 99953

I Book and Article by Professor R. Larry Todd:

a) ‘Mendelssohn. A Life in Music
Professor R. Larry Todd
Publisher: Oxford University Press (2005)
ISBN13: 978-0-19-517988-0
ISBN10: 0-19-517988-9
(acknowledged by many as the definitive biography of Mendelssohn)

b) ‘On Mendelssohn’s sacred music, real and imaginary
Professor R. Larry Todd
Chapter 10 from ‘The Cambridge Companion to Mendelssohn
Edited by Peter Mercer-Taylor
Published by Cambridge University Press (2004)
ISBN-13: 0 521 82603 9
ISBN-10: 0 521 53342 2

J Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy und die Musik der Vergangenheit.
By Susanna Großmann-Vendrey
Regensburg (1969)
 
K Elijah (sung in English)
Soloists: Libby Crabtree (sop), Renée Fleming (sop), Patricia Bardon (mezzo), Sara Fulgoni (mezzo), Matthew Munro (treble), John Bowen (ten), John Mark Ainsley (ten), Neal Davies (bar), Bryn Terfel (bass bar), Geoffrey Moses (bass),
Edinburgh Festival Chorus and the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment/Paul Daniel on Decca London 455 688-2.
 
L Oxford History of Music, Vol. VI, ‘The Romantic Period’ by Edward Dannreuther
Publisher: Clarendon Press, Oxford (1905).
 
M Mendelssohn and Judaism
By Michael P. Steinberg
Chapter 2 from ‘The Cambridge Companion to Mendelssohn’ Pg. 38
Edited by Peter Mercer-Taylor
Published by Cambridge University Press (2004)
ISBN-13: 0 521 82603 9
ISBN-10: 0 521 53342 2
 
N The Complete Book of Classical Music
Edited by David Ewen
Robert Hale, London (1978)
ISBN: 0 7091 0884 2.
Pg. 460


 


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