This set of choral pieces by Mendelssohn, all either unaccompanied or with organ (whose presence is too retiring here), shows the variety in his sacred output. Languages represented are German, Latin, and English; religions Catholic, Lutheran, and Anglican. Some of the music reflects his encounter with Bach, not in the imposing mode of the oratorios but rather in the small, chorale-like settings of the opening Sechs Sprüche für das Kirchenjahr, Op. 79. Other pieces, including one each for all-male and all-female choirs, are even simpler, with links to the tradition of secular choral song. And yet almost all of it has the everything's-good personality that's so characteristic of Mendelssohn's music and that so endeared him to Victorian England. Hear the two-section Laudate pueri, Op. 39/2, for female choir, with its delightful SSA trio. The soprano heard there, Rachel Bennett, also excels in the best-known work on the disc, Hear My Prayer, for soprano, choir, and organ; this slice of sentimentalist religion, which seems just a few steps removed from John Rutter, has a long tradition of being performed by boy sopranos, and Bennett forges a nice sound, almost without vibrato, that evokes a boy's but adds a little more power. The Trinity College Choir, Cambridge, is impressive in its security of intonation but somewhat less so in its articulation; listeners will be consulting the texts, no matter what their native languages. It's a bit of mystery why these mostly small sacred choral works aren't better known; they are sweet, warm pieces, within the reach of many choirs, that bespeak a sunny optimism. What the individual listener will think of them depends partly on his or her reactions to Mendelssohn in general, but many of them would have been quite familiar to English audiences of a century ago. The Trinity College Choir, Cambridge, deserves kudos for bringing them to light anew in an attractive recording.
AllMusic Review by James Manheim
|Anthems (6) for double chorus (Sechs Sprüche), Op. 79|
|Hear My Prayer ("O for the wings of a dove"), hymn for soprano, chorus & organ or orchestra in G major|
|Die Deutsche Liturgie, for double chorus|
|Laudate pueri ("O praise the Lord"), motet for female chorus & organ in E flat major, Op. 39/2|
|Psalms (3) for soloists & double chorus, Op. 78|