Mendelssohn: Psalms 42, 98, 114 & 115

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3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

COMPOSERS: Mendelssohn
LABELS: Hanssler
WORKS: Psalms: No. 98, Op. 91; No. 115, Op. 31; No. 114, Op. 51; No. 42, Op. 42
PERFORMER: Marlis Petersen, Sibylla Rubens (soprano), Alexandra Paulmichi (mezzo), Thomas Michael Allen, Scot Weir, Christoph Genz (tenor), Morten Ernst Lassen (baritone), Matthias Goerne, Thomas Mehnert (bass); Gächinger Kantorei Stuttgart; Bach-Collegium Stuttgart/Helmuth Rilling

 Sporadic creations throughout Mendelssohn’s life, the Psalm settings span a stylistic spectrum from neo-Baroque through to misty Romantic, from passages using a cappella double choir to others backed by dark orchestral hues – all styles are here.
As ever, Mendelssohn pins his appeal on attractive melody and timely harmonic twist, qualities that cry out for a charisma only partially delivered in these performances. In the Beethovenian Psalm 114, Mendelssohn’s imagination really comes alive, and so too does the performance – Rilling takes command and his forces respond.
Not so with the more routine writing of Psalm 115, where more trenchant interpretative decisions could perhaps have raised the game. As it is, there are occasional threadbare sounds from the soprano line, and a rather ploddy orchestral accompaniment. Generally, though, the choral sound is convincing, and sometimes thrilling.
The opening of Psalm 98, first heard on New Year’s Day 1844, would have woken up the congregation of Berlin Cathedral just as much as it did me in my armchair. Mendelssohn and Rilling at their best. Good solo contributions, if on the dramatic side for this lyrical music. William Whitehead