Mendelssohn: Three Sacred Pieces, Op. 23; Two Psalms, Op. 78/2 & 3; Responsorium et Hymnus, Op. 121

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3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

COMPOSERS: Mendelssohn
LABELS: Nimbus
WORKS: Three Sacred Pieces, Op. 23; Two Psalms, Op. 78/2 & 3; Responsorium et Hymnus, Op. 121
PERFORMER: Choir of St John’s College, Cambridge/Christopher Robinson
CATALOGUE NO: NI 5529
Mendelssohn may have been Queen Victoria’s favourite composer, but there’s too much of the comfortable atmosphere of choral evensong about this CD, which jars oddly with the German language of most of the settings. At the beginning of Psalm 43, the words ‘Richte mich, Gott’ need hard consonants and real bite

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to get off the ground, and the same problem informs the Responsorium, a back-to-Bach piece whose Latin text should have the edge that German Latin pronunciation would give it. At least these two works are strong enough to survive such bland treatment: some of the other music isn’t out of the top drawer, and needs a much firmer touch. The Geistliches Lied falls into the trap of sentimentality here, and the setting of Psalm 22, with its alternation of chorus and solos, lacks dramatic thrust. A pity about the stylistic problems, because the singing is beautifully blended and tuned, and the recording is full and vibrant, though occasionally the solos are too distant. There are excellent booklet notes by Geraint Lewis – but beware of some wildly inaccurate track times. Martin Cotton