Hardly any other composer of his epoch was as deeply rooted in the German and European choral traditions as Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy. Strongly influenced by the art of Johann Sebastian Bach, which he had encountered in the Berlin Singakademie under his teacher Carl Friedrich Zelter, the young composer wrote a series of eight chorale cantatas, including "Verleih uns Frieden gnädiglich" (“Give us Thy blessed peace”, 1831) - a short prayer for choir and orchestra set to words by Martin Luther. Mendelssohn's five wide-ranging and large-scale psalm settings became even more famous, and three of them can be heard here. The first piece in the group is the multi-part setting of Psalm 115 "Non nobis Domine" (“Not unto us, O Lord”) for soloists, choir and orchestra, op. 31 (1829/30), which was probably begun during the composer’s first stay in England and reveals his fascination for Händel's music. Mendelssohn himself considered “Wie der Hirsch schreit” ("As pants the hart"), a multi-part, cantata-like setting of Psalm 42 for soprano, choir and orchestra, op. 42 (1837/38), to be the best work of this group. Also highly praised by Robert Schumann, it remains one of the composer’s most famous choral works to this day. For the newly-formed Berlin Cathedral Choir, he also wrote a setting of Psalm 98 "Singet dem Herren ein neues Lied” (“Sing to the Lord a new-made song”) for soloists, choir and orchestra, op. 91, and in response to requests from London he composed "Hear my Prayer", a “hymn” based on Psalm 55 for soprano, choir and organ, which he later orchestrated. The piece became one of his most famous sacred works in Victorian England.
It’s always pleasing to have a new album of Mendelssohn’s exalting psalm settings which sadly are an all too neglected part of his oeuvre. It is sometimes said that the German composer’s greatest accomplishment lies in this field. Here we have a judiciously chosen programme of four psalm settings and a single chorale cantata. Especially gratifying too is that these live performances, from a quartet of soloists, Chor des Bayerischen Rundfunks and Münchner Rundfunkorchester under Howard Arman, feel so inspiring.
With utmost conviction from beginning to end the renowned Chor des Bayerischen Rundfunks deliver appropriately devout singing, well focused and eminently unified. Conductor Howard Arman pulls everything together with calm assurance, adopting sensible speeds and dynamics. Of high order too is the playing of Münchner Rundfunkorchester such a versatile ensemble that seems completely at home with Mendelssohn’s music.
– MusicWeb International