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Mendelssohn: Christus / Piau, Equilbey, Accentus

Mendelssohn / Piau / Butter / Getchell / Equilbey
Release Date: 01/31/2012 
Label:  Naive   Catalog #: 5265  
Composer:  Felix Mendelssohn
Performer:  Sandrine PiauMarkus ButterRobert Getchell
Conductor:  Laurence Equilbey
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Paris Orchestral EnsembleAccentus
Number of Discs: 1 
Length: 0 Hours 48 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews



MENDELSSOHN Christus 1. Verleih uns Frieden gnädiglich. O Haupt voll Blut und Wunden 2. Vom Himmel hoch 3 Laurence Equibey, cond; 1,3 Sandrine Piau (sop); 1 Robert Getchell (ten); 1 Laurent Slaars, 1,2,3 Markus Butter Read more (bar); Accentus; Paris O Ens NAÏVE 5265 (48:19 Text and Translation)


This release is a celebration of Felix Mendelssohn in the thrall of the Lutheran chorale. From his early study of Johann Sebastian Bach’s settings as a student of Carl Friedrich Zelter, culminating in the well-known revival of the nearly forgotten St. Matthew Passion with Zelter’s Berlin Singakademie in 1829 when he was but 20 years old, Mendelssohn was consumed by the earlier composer’s choral works. They provided a major stimulus for the younger composer’s best-known works, Eljah and St. Paul , while the generally less-familiar works recorded here by the Paris-based Accentus and the Paris Orchestral Ensemble show an even closer kinship, with Lutheran chorale tunes providing either the melodic basis for the work or being quoted at pivotal moments in them.


Christus , op. 97, was to be the successor to St. Paul and Elijah , had Mendelssohn lived long enough to complete it. When he died at age 38 in 1847, approximately a third of it was complete. The six choral movements published by Breitkopf & Härtel, including the familiar chorus “Es wird ein Stern aus Jacob aufgehn,” are performed here, consisting of three movements each from the first two parts of what was to be a three-part work. These consist of a soprano recitative, a trio for the Three Kings, a dramatic sequence with tenor recitative and chorus presenting Pilate’s questioning of the crowd, and three choruses. The chorale “Wie schön leuchtet der Morgenstern” is used to fine effect as the peaceful ending to the part dealing with the Nativity and “Er nimmt auf seinen Rücken,” used by Bach in the St. Matthew Passion , is set in Mendelssohn’s best Baroque-inspired style at the end of “The Passion of Christ.” The three cantatas were composed in a rush of inspiration occasioned by the gift of a book of Lutheran chorales while he toured Europe between 1829 and 1831. O Haupt voll Blut und Wunden came first, a dramatic cantata for baritone with a decidedly non-Baroque treatment of the chorale. The Christmas cantata Von Himmel hoch , with soprano and baritone, and Verleih uns Frieden gnädiglich pay further tribute to the chorale as Mendelssohn developed new styles for setting the old melodies.


All of the pieces display the beauty and serenity Mendelssohn created with such deceptive ease, and it is this above all that Accentus and its orchestral partners bring to these performances. There is of course the chorus’s legendary perfection of diction, intonation, and blend, but it is the exquisite tone and buoyant rhythm that most impresses. The soloists match them in all this: soprano Sandrine Piau radiant in a way that recalls Lucia Popp, Robert Getchell pure-toned and unaffected in the recitatives, and Markus Butter a little strained by the tessitura of O Haupt voll Blut und Wunden , but otherwise magisterial and rich in tone.


Christus is available in several recordings, including a new one from the Rondeau label reviewed adjacently. The monumental 12-volume Mendelssohn Church Music edition on Carus with the Stuttgart Chamber Chorus conducted by Frieder Bernius of course includes it and all of the cantatas. The Stuttgart performances are uniformly excellent: graceful, vivid, and classically poised, and in superb sound. The 20-plus-year-old Michel Corboz recordings of Christus and two of the cantatas are also well performed, but now seem rather heavy and overly reverent in comparison. Originally on Erato, they are now available in an imported Warner Classics box of mixed interest. There have been numerous additional recordings of the cantatas as well, in various programs. However, the performances in this new recording are in every way the equal to the best of their predecessors. What is more, the engineering is a perfect complement to the performances: detailed, airy, and palpable. It is hard to imagine anyone being able to resist the charm of this release. If this program appeals, the performances will richly compensate the investment, despite the rather short timing.


FANFARE: Ronald E. Grames
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Works on This Recording

1. Christus, Op. 97 by Felix Mendelssohn
Performer:  Sandrine Piau (Soprano), Markus Butter (Bass), Robert Getchell (Countertenor)
Conductor:  Laurence Equilbey
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Paris Orchestral Ensemble,  Accentus
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1847; Germany 
2. Vom Himmel hoch, da komm' ich her by Felix Mendelssohn
Performer:  Sandrine Piau (Soprano), Markus Butter (Bass), Robert Getchell (Countertenor)
Conductor:  Laurence Equilbey
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Paris Orchestral Ensemble,  Accentus
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1831; Germany 
3. Verleih uns Frieden by Felix Mendelssohn
Performer:  Sandrine Piau (Soprano), Markus Butter (Bass), Robert Getchell (Countertenor)
Conductor:  Laurence Equilbey
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Paris Orchestral Ensemble,  Accentus
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1831; Germany 
4. O Haupt voll Blut und Wunden by Felix Mendelssohn
Performer:  Sandrine Piau (Soprano), Markus Butter (Bass), Robert Getchell (Countertenor)
Conductor:  Laurence Equilbey
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Paris Orchestral Ensemble,  Accentus
Period: Romantic 
Written: Germany 

Sound Samples

Verleih' uns Frieden
Christus, Op. 97: Part I: Geburt Christi: Recitative: Da Jesus geboren war zu Bethlehem (Soprano)
Christus, Op. 97: Part I: Geburt Christi: Trio: Wo ist der neugeborne Konig der Juden? (Tenor, Bass)
Christus, Op. 97: Part I: Geburt Christi: Es wird ein Stern aus Jakob aufgehn (Chorus)
Christus, Op. 97: Part II: Leiden Christi: Recitative: Und der ganze Haufe stand auf (Tenor)
Christus, Op. 97: Part II: Leiden Christi: Ihr Tochter Zions (Chorus)
Christus, Op. 97: Part II: Leiden Christi: Er nimmt auf seinen Rucken (Chorus)
O Haupt voll Blut und Wunden: (Chorus)
O Haupt voll Blut und Wunden: Aria: Du, dessen Todeswunden die sundge Welt versohnt (Bass)
O Haupt voll Blut und Wunden: Ich will hier bei dir stehen, verachte mich doch nicht (Chorus)
Vom Himmel hoch: da komm ich her (Chorus)
Vom Himmel hoch: Aria: Es ist der Herr Christ, unser Gott (Baritone)
Vom Himmel hoch: Er bring euch alle Seligkeit (Chorus)
Vom Himmel hoch: Aria: Sei willekomm', du edler Gast (Soprano)
Vom Himmel hoch: Arioso: Das also hat gefallen dir (Baritone)
Vom Himmel hoch: Lob, Ehr sei Gott im hochsten Thron (Chorus)

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