This CD is reissued by ArkivMusic.
Notes and Editorial Reviews
It should take no more than these two new recordings to convince us of the worth of Mendelssohn's Paulus. The work is seldom given a chance in the concert hall to free itself from the cobweb mustiness of English non-conformist tradition; but both Masur and Corboz give committed, persuasive and in every way restorative accounts of an oratorio too often and too long neglected by professional musicians.
Both conductors realize that pacing is all. The balance of dramatic narrative, subjective meditation and objective reflection is a tricky one to achieve, and both performances favour brisk tempos, lithe, bright-toned string playing, and strongly profiled solo performances. Masur and the Leipzig orchestra have the measure of the
work's sensibility from the first second: a warm yet austere sense of gravitas, with a long, barely perceptible crescendo through the Overture (no wonder Wagner approved) leads to an opening chorus which fuses to a nicety the vitality and the majesty which Mendelssohn requested. Corboz and his Lisbon forces are just as exciting, at times indeed, to the point of excitability: there is less sense of ballast and design in his choruses, partly because the male voices are weaker. This is a pity as Corboz decides to give them the parts of the False Witnesses which Masur, properly, assigns to two solo basses, and voices of character at that. Again, possibly for economic reasons, Corboz is content to let part of his choir take the role of the heavenly chorus who speak for God on the road to Damascus: Masur's children's choir make the event a real epiphany.
Masur, with the air of Leipzig permeating his every pore, scores highly on the chorales. In their gently rounded harmonies and fine scoring, they have a subtly manipulative effect, and Masur shapes them with keen sensitivity to the disposition of voices within the arc of their chord progressions. By comparison, Corboz's sound merely subdued. When it comes to soloists, both recordings have much to offer. Masur has Janowitz, propelling her narrative recitatives with fierce dramatic urgency: Yakar, for Corboz, more supple and lyrical, gives contemplation the upper hand over action. With less vibrato, her voice takes the steam out of the great ''Jerusalem'' aria, bringing to it a more rapt, detached quality: Janowitz's voice here is the voice of the believer, Yakar's more that of the omniscient speaker himself.
Both tenors offer well-integrated performances with Schafer for Corboz having the edge over Blochwitz in speed of response and clarity in the top register. Theo Adam's Saul/Paul is sung straight from the diaphragm: this is the voice of the Old Testament God of vengeance as much as the New Testament hero moving from persecuting to proselytizing zeal. Thomas Hampson represents the latter alone in a lighter, though equally stylish performance.
-- Hilary Finch, Gramophone [2/1988]
Works on This Recording
Saint Paul, Op. 36 by Felix Mendelssohn
Gothart Stier (Bass),
Theo Adam (Bass),
Gundula Janowitz (Soprano),
Rosemarie Lang (Soprano),
Hans-Peter Blochwitz (Tenor),
Hermann-Christian Polster (Bass)
Leipzig Radio Chorus,
Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra,
Leipzig Gewandhaus Children's Choir
Written: 1836; Germany
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