Friday, December 09, 2005


Mendelssohn: the Hymn of Praise

This extensive work, in B-flat, Op.52, was finished in 1840, and first called a Symphony-Cantata, consisting as it does of three preliminary orchestral Movements, and seven vocal numbers, Solos and Choruses. The plan of the work is similar to that of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, and it is quite possible that the idea may have been inspired by the latter, albeit Mendelssohn lays particular stress upon the vocal numbers, and contemplated calling the work simply Cantata. The chief motive is more specifically a musical Motto than a Theme, and it does not dominate the entire composition.

While not the most impressive or significant of Mendelssohn's creations, it exhibits many traits of great beauty and vigor, and testifies in its own way to the originality and power of his genius. The three instrumental numbers which precede the Cantata scarcely attain to the dignity of the symphonic ideal. The first Movement is a sonata-allegro form with independent Introduction. The second (connected with the preceding) is an Allegretto of touching melodic beauty, suggestive of the Songs Without Words; it is a Song-form with Trio, and the Trio is an original chorale-melody, quaintly interwoven with fragments of the principal Division. An atmosphere of melancholy, not altogether consistent with the character of a Hymn of Praise, pervades this Movement, and also the next, which is an Adagio religioso that does not at any point rise above the level of a Song Without Words.


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