Mendelssohn Choral Music

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COMPOSERS: Felix Mendelssohn
ALBUM TITLE: Mendelssohn Choral Music
WORKS: Sechs Sprüche; Hear My Prayer; Motets, Op. 39; Magnificat and Nunc dimittis; Ave Maria; Psalm 43
PERFORMER: Peter Holder (organ); St Albans Abbey GirLs Choir, Lay clerks of St Albans Cathedral Choir/Tom Winpenny


I get the impression that discussions over the relative merits of boy and girl sopranos in church choirs are more or less over, and an amicable draw has been agreed. Certainly, on their showing here, St Albans Abbey Girls Choir can stand comparison with the best boys’ choirs, even if their sound is slightly different (if anything more human). In general they don’t dominate the lower voices in the traditional way, but are more integrated. The gain here is that we hear Mendelssohn’s impeccable, expressive part-writing, which the lay clerks clearly relish. Throughout, great care has obviously been taken over words and phrasing.

The purity and steadiness of the girls’ voices are in themselves utterly delightful, but they do mean that any unsteadiness elsewhere stands out: here, the tenor soloist, who might blend perfectly well in other circumstances, is done no favours. As to the repertoire, the Sechs Sprüche, dating from 1843-6, are tiny masterpieces, reminding us yet again of Mendelssohn’s ability to work miracles within standard harmonic practice. Less interesting are the Magnificat and Nunc dimittis, and while the first two sections of the organ solo are excellent, the final fugue is rather dull.


Roger Nichols