Felix MENDELSSOHN (1809-1847)
Christus (1846-7) [18:31]
Verleih uns frieden gnädiglich (1831) [4:13]
O haupt voll blut und wunden (1830) [11:54]
Von himmel hoch (1830) [13:37]
Sandrine Piau (soprano); Robert Getchell (tenor); Markus Butter (baritone);
Laurent Staars (bass); Accentus; Ensemble Orchestral de Paris/Laurence Equilbey
rec. June 2011, Notre-Dame du Liban Church, Paris
German text and English and French translations included
NAÏVE V5265 [48:15]
It is unsurprising that after the great success of “St Paul” and
“Elijah” Mendelssohn should have wanted to write a third oratorio.
This was to have been entitled “Earth, Hell and Heaven”, dealing
with events from Christ’s coming to his descent into hell and his resurrection.
It was never completed however, and what remains, renamed “Christus”
comprises two short sections, from the intended first part of the work dealing
with the epiphany and the trial of Christ respectively. The first is often sung
to organ accompaniment as an anthem, and works well in that guise. It works
even better here with orchestral accompaniment which makes Mendelssohn’s
very self-conscious debt to Bach even more obvious, especially in the Passiontide
section. Whilst the music cannot be said to make a great effect out of its intended
context these are fascinating examples of Mendelssohn’s dramatic art,
and as performed here with superb singing and playing they are utterly convincing.
The other three items also show his debt to Bach and to his cantatas in particular.
“Verleih uns frieden gnädiglich” is a single choral movement
with gravely flowing accompaniment including divided cellos. This is Mendelssohn
at his best and it is extraordinary that it is so seldom heard. Again the excellent
performance reveals it to its best advantage.
The other two multi-movement works more obviously resemble the cantatas of Bach,
and are well contrasted with each other, the first for Easter and the second
for Christmas. Although it is not mentioned in Richard Jones’ otherwise
admirable notes, these cantatas appear to differ from those of Bach in being
intended for uninterrupted concert performance. The performances here are again
excellent, especially in respect of the very committed singing of both soloists
This is a disc that deserves a place in the collection of any admirer of the
music of Mendelssohn, or indeed of Bach, who wants to explore further the intimate
relationship between their music. All of the music on the disc is worth repeated
hearing and is presented in good and well recorded performances. The only possible
drawback is the very short measure but for once I would recommend ignoring that
and concentrating on the quality of what is on offer.
Ignore the very short measure and concentrate on the quality of what is on offer.