One of the most grown-up review sites around

54,928 reviews
and more.. and still writing ...

Search MusicWeb Here



International mailing

Founder: Len Mullenger                                    Editor in Chief:John Quinn             

Some items
to consider


paid for

Acte Prealable Polish recordings

Forgotten Recordings
Forgotten Recordings
All Forgotten Records Reviews

Troubadisc Weinberg- TROCD01450

100th birthday of Mieczyslaw Weinberg on December 8, 2019.
Renate Eggbrecht has recorded all 3 violin Sonatas
All Troubadisc reviews

FOGHORN Classics

Brahms String Quartets

All Foghorn Reviews

All HDTT reviews

Salon Treasures from the Max Jaffa Library



Follow us on Twitter

Subscribe to our free weekly review listing

Sample: See what you will get

Editorial Board
MusicWeb International
Founding Editor
Rob Barnett
Editor in Chief
John Quinn
Contributing Editor
Ralph Moore
Seen & Heard
Editor Emeritus
   Bill Kenny
MusicWeb Webmaster
   David Barker
Jonathan Woolf
MusicWeb Founder
   Len Mullenger


Discs for review may be sent to:
Jonathan Woolf
76 Lushes Road
Essex IG10 3QB
United Kingdom



Advertising on

Donate and keep us afloat


New Releases

Naxos Classical
All Naxos reviews

Chandos recordings
All Chandos reviews

Hyperion recordings
All Hyperion reviews

Foghorn recordings
All Foghorn reviews

Troubadisc recordings
All Troubadisc reviews

all Bridge reviews

all cpo reviews

Divine Art recordings
Click to see New Releases
Get 10% off using code musicweb10
All Divine Art reviews

Eloquence recordings
All Eloquence reviews

Lyrita recordings
All Lyrita Reviews


Wyastone New Releases
Obtain 10% discount

Recordings of the Month

July 2022

John Luther Adams Houses of the Wind
John Luther Adams
Houses of the Wind

Horneman Alladin
Horneman Alladin

Stojowski piano concertos
Piano Concertos 1 & 2

Vaughan Williams on Brass

Yi Lin Jiang - Dualis I

June 2022

Beethoven Sonatas 29, 32

Orchestral Works

String Quartets Vol 1




CD: AmazonUK AmazonUS
Download: Classicsonline

Symphony No.2 in B flat major, Op.52 Lobgesang [63:05]
Judith Howarth (soprano); Jennifer Larmore (mezzo); Christoph Prégardien (tenor)
Bergen Philharmonic Choir; Bergen Vocal Ensemble
The Danish National Vocal Ensemble/DR
Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra/Andrew Litton
rec. 23-24 April 2008, Grieg Hall, Bergen, Norway
Texts and translations included
BIS-SACD-1704 [63:05]
Experience Classicsonline

Composers have always been urged to write commemorative pieces, but this one –  composed to mark Gutenberg’s invention of the printing press in 1440 – is a bit more obscure than most. It’s certainly one of Mendelssohn’s least recorded symphonies – ArkivMusic lists 17 versions in all – so this year’s Proms performance under Mark Elder was most welcome. That said, this ‘Hymn of Praise’ is a strange hybrid – the composer called it a ‘Symphony-Cantata on Words from the Holy Bible’ – with a three-movement orchestral Sinfonia and nine movements for orchestra, soloists and/or chorus. And although it’s rarely recorded there are fine versions in bargain sets from Herbert von Karajan (DG 4777581), Vladimir Ashkenazy (Decca 4709462) and Claudio Abbado (DG 4714672).

This new recording is taken from live performances by the Bergen Philharmonic under their principal conductor, Andrew Litton. They are joined by an impressive line-up of soloists, among them the lyric tenor Christoph Prégardien, best known – to me at least – for his Schubert lieder, and two opera singers, Jennifer Larmore and Judith Howarth. The orchestral Sinfonia starts in magisterial style but the first thing one notices is that the acoustic is rather dry and close, presumably the effect of a packed hall, and definition isn’t as sharp as we’ve come to expect from BIS.

What about the performance? It’s adequate, the Maestoso surprisingly lacklustre at times. Still, there is some fleet-footed string playing in the Allegretto, which Litton phrases rather well. The real problem here is the music itself – it lacks the sheer inventiveness and spontaneity of the overtures and later symphonies. It’s too earnest for its own good, an impression confirmed by the rather dour Adagio religioso that follows. Sluggish tempi, uninspired playing and the diffuse recording certainly don’t help.

After such a shaky start I hoped the first chorus and soprano aria, ‘All men, all things, that have life and breath’, would invigorate the performance. After all, this is Mendelssohn in oratorio mode, impassioned, grand. As it happens, I wasn’t disappointed, the chorus’s first entry as splendid as I’ve ever heard it. Howarth is in secure voice too, adding a much-needed lift to the proceedings. Prégardien’s recitative and aria ‘Proclaim it, you who are delivered through the Lord’, is even finer, his voice warmly expressive throughout. Even the orchestra seem more animated and alert in their accompaniment. What a pity, then, that the soloists are set too far back and in danger of being swamped in the climaxes.

Larmore makes her only appearance in the duet and chorus ‘I waited for the Lord and he inclined to me’. This is Mendelssohn at his most gravely beautiful, the soloists borne aloft by some buoyant playing from the Bergen band. The high point of this disc so far – or so I thought, until I heard Prégardien’s aria and recitative ‘The bonds of death had held us’. He sings with operatic intensity here, and will surely send a shiver up your spine with the final line: ‘Watchman, will the night soon pass?’ Wonderful stuff, but is it enough to save the performance as a whole?

Well, there are more good things to come, Howarth suitably radiant in ’The night is departed, the day is come’. The choral singing is bright and incisive – as it is throughout – with a touch of glare in the climaxes; the organ, hitherto discreet, is thrilling at this point. Thankfully, the choral Nun danket (‘Now thank we all our God’) is sung with just the right degree of reverence, the organ underpinning the voices to great effect. Little wonder, listening to this music, that the Victorians loved Mendelssohn so much. Indeed, this could so easily sound overblown, yet Litton and his forces find a simple piety here that’s both satisfying and deeply moving. Special credit to the choruses and the uncredited organist, who really excel themselves.

‘Therefore I sing with my song ever your praise’, is notable for its good vocal blend and security of tone, Prégardien and Howarth ideally paired in this loveliest of duets. But it’s the final chorus ‘You nations, bring the Lord honour and might!’ that hints at the majesty of Paulus and Elijah. One might prefer a weightier choral sound, but when it comes to grandeur there’s little to complain about here. That glorious finale alone deserves the enthusiastic applause that follows.

Even though this isn’t Mendelssohn at his most inspired this symphony merits more praise than it usually gets. True, the Sinfonia can be a trial – it certainly is here – but the composer really comes into his own when writing for soloists and chorus. There is much to enjoy on this disc, but as a performance it’s frustratingly uneven.

Dan Morgan




Making a Donation to MusicWeb

Writing CD reviews for MWI

About MWI
Who we are, where we have come from and how we do it.

Site Map

How to find a review

How to find articles on MusicWeb
Listed in date order

Review Indexes
   By Label
      Select a label and all reviews are listed in Catalogue order
   By Masterwork
            Links from composer names (eg Sibelius) are to resource pages with links to the review indexes for the individual works as well as other resources.

Themed Review pages

Jazz reviews


      Composer surveys
      Unique to MusicWeb -
a comprehensive listing of all LP and CD recordings of given works
Prepared by Michael Herman

The Collector’s Guide to Gramophone Company Record Labels 1898 - 1925
Howard Friedman

Book Reviews

Complete Books
We have a number of out of print complete books on-line

With Composers, Conductors, Singers, Instumentalists and others
Includes those on the Seen and Heard site


Nostalgia CD reviews

Records Of The Year
Each reviewer is given the opportunity to select the best of the releases

Monthly Best Buys
Recordings of the Month and Bargains of the Month

Arthur Butterworth Writes

An occasional column

Phil Scowcroft's Garlands
British Light Music articles

Classical blogs
A listing of Classical Music Blogs external to MusicWeb International

Reviewers Logs
What they have been listening to for pleasure



Bulletin Board

Give your opinions or seek answers

Pat and present

Helpers invited!

How Did I Miss That?

Currently suspended but there are a lot there with sound clips

Composer Resources

British Composers

British Light Music Composers

Other composers

Film Music (Archive)
Film Music on the Web (Closed in December 2006)

Programme Notes
For concert organizers

External sites
British Music Society
The BBC Proms
Orchestra Sites
Recording Companies & Retailers
Online Music
Agents & Marketing
Other links
Web News sites etc

A pot-pourri of articles

MW Listening Room
MW Office

Advice to Windows Vista users  
Site History  
What they say about us
What we say about us!
Where to get help on the Internet
CD orders By Special Request
Graphics archive
Currency Converter
Web Ring
Translation Service

Rules for potential reviewers :-)
Do Not Go Here!
April Fools

Return to Review Index

Untitled Document

Reviews from previous months
Join the mailing list and receive a hyperlinked weekly update on the discs reviewed. details
We welcome feedback on our reviews. Please use the Bulletin Board
Please paste in the first line of your comments the URL of the review to which you refer.