There can be no doubt that Mendelssohn believed -- truly, deeply, profoundly believed -- in the Lutheran faith into which he was baptized. Just listen to his oratorios Elijah and Paulus. Nor can there be any doubt that Mendelssohn was -- truly, deeply, profoundly -- one of the most gifted composers of the first half of the nineteenth century. Just listen to his Octet or A Midsummer Night's Dream incidental music. The question is: could Mendelssohn's belief and gifts be turned into the small forms of sacred choral music or would his faith swamp the form and his gifts gild the lily?
Prior to the 2006 release of this disc by the St. John's College Choir, Cambridge, it was hard to tell because most recordings of Mendelssohn's sacred choral music were made by amateur German choirs with less ability than ambition. Yet with this disc one can proclaim that Mendelssohn's faith and gifts were indeed suited to the small form of sacred choral music because here is a disc of unsurpassed belief and unrivaled musicianship. Led by David Hill, the St. John's College Choir, Cambridge is a warm-toned, clear-voiced choir with unfailing intonation and unflagging intensity. From the darkly moving Aus tiefer Not (From deepest need) that opens the disc to the achingly beautiful O for the wings of a dove that closes it, Hill and the choir give Mendelssohn's music no less than their all and it proves more than enough to compel belief in the worth of the music. Hyperion's sound is deep, clear, and true.