Mendelssohn: Church Music, Vol. 9: Herr Gott, dich loben wir; Psalms 95 & 98; Ach Gott, vom Himmel sieh darein; Two English Psalms; Hymne, Op. 96; Hark! The herald angels sing

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Mendelssohn
LABELS: Carus
WORKS: Church Music, Vol. 9: Herr Gott, dich loben wir; Psalms 95 & 98; Ach Gott, vom Himmel sieh darein; Two English Psalms; Hymne, Op. 96; Hark! The herald angels sing
PERFORMER: Andrea L Brown, Maria Bernius (soprano), Monica Groop (mezzo-soprano), Werner Güra (tenor), Michael Volle (bass); Stuttgart Chamber Choir; Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen/Frieder Bernius
CATALOGUE NO: 83.217 (hybrid CD/SACD)

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The works here were recorded during the same six-day session as those in Vol. 8 of this series (which I reviewed in the April issue) and display the same virtues: energy, clarity (especially in the SACD version) and at times sheer power. But they come from later in the composer’s career (1836-43) and the increase in spiritual depth is unmistakable.

While Mendelssohn’s harmonic palette never included anything untoward, the surprises come in the successions: time and again I would think I knew where he was going, only to be wrong-footed, and to the music’s advantage (no surprise there).

The soloists are first-class and I particularly relished the bass Michael Volle’s warm tone and affectionate phrasing. The chorus too make the most of their varied opportunities – emphatic in the chorales, lithe in the fugues – as does the orchestra.

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I wonder slightly about the ordering of the pieces in that, although textures in general are sensibly contrasted, the last ten minutes of the disc are entirely homophonic. I would recommend starting with track 6 and leaving the wonderful Psalm 95 to the end. What a sensational piece this is! After three hearings, I am about to put it on again… Roger Nichols