Mendelssohn: gnädiglich; O Haupt voll Blut und Wunden; Von Himmel hoch

COMPOSERS: Mendelssohn
LABELS: NAIVE
ALBUM TITLE: Mendelssohn
WORKS: gnädiglich; O Haupt voll Blut und Wunden; Von Himmel hoch
PERFORMER: Sandrine Piau (soprano), Robert Getchell (tenor), Markus Butter (baritone); Accentus; Ensemble Orchestral de Paris/Laurence Equilbey
CATALOGUE NO: V 5265

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Accentus’s many fans have further reason to celebrate. All their hallmarks are in evidence here: springy rhythms, fine choral balance, clean, bright tone, splendid diction. And what marvellous music this is! Taking on the chorale cantata after JS Bach was a brave enterprise, and might have been written off as foolhardy were Mendelssohn’s renderings not so thrilling and imaginative.

O Haupt voll Blut und Wunden is newly illumined by the bare minor third on strings that ends the opening chorus – the awesomeness of greeting the wounded Christ almost stunning the performers into silence – while the stabbing repeated notes that underpin the final chorale vividly portray their determination to cling to him even ‘in the last agonies of death’.

But the high point of the disc is the unfinished oratorio now known as Christus. The portrayal of Christ’s Passion and the lament of the daughters of Zion are almost unbearably poignant, and I defy anyone to remain unmoved by the two lacerating trumpets on the repetitions of ‘Kreuzige ihn!’ The three soloists are all first class, alive to the drama in each of the works but never over-responding. A disc to treasure.

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Roger Nichols