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Cat. No. CHAN 10363 Price: £10.5 No. of discs: 1
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CHAN 10363 - Mendelssohn: Sacred Choral Works
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Available From: 01 April 2006
Nearly 160 years after his death, the position which Felix Mendelssohn holds as a crucial link between the classical style of Mozart and Beethoven and the high romantic style of Schumann and Brahms is unquestioningly secure, but he is still an imperfectly known composer whose reputation continues to rest on his orchestral output and on his oratorios Elijah and St Paul; his sacred choral works (excepting Elijah and St Paul) are very seldom heard. Mendelssohn devoted much of his energy and talent to music for liturgical use, and it forms a substantial proportion of his output. This is the second recording by the Choir of Trinity College, Cambridge for Chandos, which follows the success of the complete choral works by Duruflé (CHAN 10357).

Mendelssohn was in the forefront of the nineteenth-century revival of the music of J.S. Bach and his choral music owes a powerful debt to Bach’s influence. Hear my prayer, the most well known of Mendelssohn’s sacred pieces, is recorded here with several of his less well-known – but no less enjoyable – sacred works, including the Three Psalms, Op. 78. These are among the most ambitious of Mendelssohn’s a cappella works. Die deutsche Liturgie, for double chorus a cappella, is a late work intended for church use, and an extremely attractive piece making economical use of the possibility of antiphony between the choirs. The Ave Maria for eight-part choir and organ is an early work, which was published in 1830 as the second of the three motets that make up his Op. 23. Another cycle, published in 1844, was the set of Six Motets, Op. 79. Each chorus is associated with a particular church festival – Christmas, New Year’s Day, Ascension, Easter, Advent, Good Friday. Mendelssohn’s unaccompanied choral writing is here at its most fluid, moving easily between mastery of intertwining polyphonic lines and hymnic homophony, often within the one piece. The opening Christmas chorus is especially charming, and the Advent motet, with its resourceful canonic writing and range of vocal textures, is perhaps the high point of the set from a compositional point of view. In fact, all this music has considerable beauty and instantly captivates the listener.

Trinity College has a long and distinguished choral tradition and in this release offers an exquisite performance of sacred works by Mendelssohn, re-introducing many unknown works to the recorded choral catalogue.

Of the two new releases, even if it does not always inhabit the music fully, Trinity is ultimately a more satisfactory recording experience. The solo sections are an object lesson in unanimity of purpose, from which many a weightier voice could learn, and the clean, fresh response to text is winning.
BBC Music Magazine

The performances are robust yet sensitive, A world away from that slightly wishy-washy quality which so many choirs seem to find in Mendelssohn’s small-scale sacred pieces, and the recorded sound is sumptuous. This is a triumph for Marlow and his Trinity college choir, for Chandos, and above all, for Mendelssohn’s reputation as an inventive and deeply rewarding composer of sacred choral pieces.
International Record Review


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