WORKS: Magnificat in D; Wir glauben all an einen Gott; Gloria; Jesu meine Freude; Tu es Petrus
PERFORMER: Andrea L Brown (soprano), Monica Groop (mezzo-soprano), Werner Güra (tenor), Michael Volle (bass); Kammerchor Stuttgart; Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen/Frieder Bernius
CATALOGUE NO: 83.216
Mendelssohn’s ‘rediscovery’ of Bach is usually identified with his Berlin performances of the St Matthew Passion in 1829, but this disc begins and ends with his Magnificat and Gloria of 1822, in which the 13-year-old shows he has already absorbed the Bachian style with astonishing readiness, together with bits of CPE and Handel. His control of counterpoint too is a marvel, with never a clumsy phrase.
It would even so be unfair to expect from a young boy much in the way of spiritual depth, and at times one does slightly get the impression of him going through his exercises (Handelian pomp in ‘Dispersit superbos’, fugal vigour in ‘Sicut erat’), although there are some enticing harmonies in the ‘Gloria’ of the Magnificat – in a Victorian novel, this might be a chapter entitled ‘In Which Our Hero Encounters the Delights of Chromaticism’.
The meat of the disc comes in the three central ‘mature’ works, most notably the tremendous threefold setting of Luther’s Creed from 1831. The performances throughout are first-class, with Andrea Brown a radiant soprano, and chorus and orchestra both full of life and energy – Mendelssohnian qualities that can sometimes be forgotten in our amazement at his technical skills. The SACD adds space and clarity. Roger Nichols