Mendelssohn Symphony No 2, 'Lobgesang'
Mendelssohn’s Hymn of Praise was hugely popular in the 19th century, generally performed as a completely choral work without the three introductory orchestral movements. The opening could not be more striking: the theme that is later associated with the idea “All that hath life and breath, praise ye the Lord”. The present recording under Frieder Bernius also relies on the work’s choral qualities rather than the symphonic. The work was originally written in 1840 to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the invention of movable type, and Mendelssohn for many years refused to let it be published; it finally appeared posthumously as his Op 90.
This recording is designed to crown Bernius’s series of Mendessohn’s choral works, and offers a fitting climax. Though the soprano of Christiane Karg initially sounds too shallow in her first solo, she comes into her own in the duet “I waited for the Lord”. The great moment which follows is set to the words “Die Nacht ist vergangen” (“the night has departed”) – a moment which should send a thrill, as it certainly does in this recording. The final fugue is impressive too, very clearly defined here, with a final resounding reference to the “All that hath life and breath” theme. Mendelssohn was a superb craftsman, and though this work has sometimes been dismissed as being shallow, fashions happily are changing to allow the beauties of Lobgesang to be appreciated.