I have to admit that when I requested a copy of this album to review, I thought that I was asking for Felix Mendelssohn, not Arnold Mendelssohn. After getting over my initial disappointment (I absolutely love the choral music of Felix Mendelssohn), I popped this in to play and the rest of the story is below.
Arnold Ludwig Mendelssohn (1855-1933) was second cousin to Felix Mendelssohn, but never made the acquaintance of his famous uncle, who had passed away eight years before his birth. Arnold Mendelssohn turned from the study of law to music and subsequently became the director of church music and a professor in Darmstadt; not surprisingly, most of his compositions are in the area of sacred music. I read in the companion booklet for this CD that Mendelssohn shunned the musical “progress” of the early 20th century and saw himself “as an artist firmly rooted in the art of older times.”
The time when Arnold Mendelssohn was active, I’ve always felt, was an extremely rich period in music history when the peak of tonality overlapped with the advent of atonality. In spite of his avowed rejection of musical evolution in the first part of the 20th century, Mendelssohn’s music is hardly void of its influence. Writing in traditional forms, he exhausts the limits of tonality and makes wonderful use of the expressive technique of chromaticism. In the Epiphany motet, Op. 90/10, the opposition of darkness and light finds its musical equivalent in a grinding dissonance, unthinkable for the romantic period, which only serves to make the resolution that much more satisfying.
Directed by Frieder Bernius, the SWR Vokalensemble Stuttgart is one of the preeminent choirs active today. In terms of balance, intonation, expression – well, everything actually, the performances are faultless and absolutely gorgeous. Hänssler Classic provides a warm and glowing ambiance on this demonstration-class Super Audio CD. For any lover of choral music, this undeservedly forgotten music is not to be missed.
Today, the name of Arnold Mendelssohn scarcely ranks as a footnote in most musical textbooks, despite his seminal role in the revival of German church music as well as having taught composers such as Paul Hindemith and Guenther Raphael. Mendelssohn was born in Silesia in 1855. Following studies in law at Tübingen, he entered the Institute für Kirchenmusik in Berlin. Upon graduation, he would assume a number of increasingly prestigious positions, finally arriving in Darmstadt where he taught at the conservatory there and later at the Frankfurt am Main Conservatory.
So what does Arnold Mendelssohn's music sound like? Just as his famous cousin led the rediscovery of Bach's music, Arnold found inspiration in the works of the early masters, most notably Heinrich Schütz, Claudio Monteverdi and Hans Leo Hassler. This love of polyphony, combined with his characteristic warm, late Romantic harmonic language imbues Mendelssohn's scores with a sense of otherworldly timelessness. Tragically, Mendelssohn's music was banned by the Nazis and later fell into utter neglect after the war.
One cannot imagine a more ideal choir than the SWR Vokalensemble to restore these exquisite scores to their rightful place in the choral repertoire.
Arnold Ludwig Mendelssohn (Raciorz, 26 December 1855 – Darmstadt, 18 February 1933) was a German composer and music teacher. Mendelssohn was born in the then Ratibor, Province of Silesia, son of Felix Mendelssohn’s second cousin… read more
Conductor: Frieder Bernius
Three dates mark important events in the artistic career of Frieder Bernius. In 1968 he founded the Kammerchor Stuttgart (Chamber Choir of Stuttgart) with the intention of raising the a cappella choir music to… read more
SWR Vocal Ensemble Stuttgart
Performers: SWR Vocal Ensemble Stuttgart
Founded in 1946, … the SWR Vocal Ensemble Stuttgart has devoted more than fifty years in concerts and radio productions of the proliferation of new or little-known virtuoso choral music… read more
“Not just recommended. Guaranteed.”
We stand behind every album featured on Expedition Audio. Our objective is to take the monetary risk out of music exploration.
If you order this album from HBDirect.com and do not like it you can return it for a refund.
Arnold Mendelssohn: Deutsche Messe Op. 89 - I. Herr, erbarme dich