Hyperion Records

Warum toben die Heiden?, Op 78 No 1
The Three Psalms, Op 78, were composed between 1843 and 1844. Mendelssohn was as hectically busy as ever, yet the whirlwind pace of his musical life finds no place in these movingly poised settings. Indeed, it defies belief that Mendelssohn’s treatment of Psalm 2, one of his most sublime creations, could have resulted from such an itinerary. Composed in a matter of days for the Christmas service of 1843, it followed hard upon a series of concerts at the Gewandhaus in Leipzig, a pension fund concert at which he played Bach’s C major Triple Concerto with Ferdinand Hiller and Clara Schumann, premieres of music by Niels Gade and George Alexander Macfarren, mentoring the up-and-coming composer Carl Reinecke, a swift journey to Berlin to conduct the overture to Mozart’s The Magic Flute, a Haydn symphony, and Beethoven’s Symphony No 7 and ‘Emperor’ Piano Concerto, further concerts featuring concertos, symphonies and overtures by Mozart, Beethoven and Weber, accompanying a violin recital with Bernard Molique which included Beethoven’s ‘Kreutzer’ Sonata, among various other engagements. He also received a lucrative offer from William Sterndale Bennett to conduct all of London’s orchestral concerts that season, which he reluctantly had to turn down owing to lack of time.

Warum toben die Heiden (Psalm 2) divides into several musically differentiated sub-sections. After the imposing opening declaration (verses 1–5) with its characteristic dotted rhythms and highly affective antiphonal writing for the male voices of both choirs, a sense of spiritual calm is beautifully conveyed by the use of solo voices, until the gloriously full tutti at the words ‘Du bist mein Sohn’. The music moves into triple metre (3/2) at verse 9 for a tempestuous ‘Du sollst sie mit’, followed by a withdrawn, awe-inspired ‘So lasset euch nun weisen’. The passage which follows (‘Küsset den Sohn’) finds Mendelssohn’s inspiration running at white heat, culminating in a series of ecstatic harmonic suspensions of surpassing beauty. The brief final Gloria (‘Ehre sei dem Vater’) conceals within its apparent simplicity of utterance, a supremely crafted four-part canon.

from notes by Julian Haylock © 2006

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Details for CDH55268 track 13
Recording date
18 February 1989
Recording venue
St Jude-on-the-Hill, Hampstead Garden Suburb, London, United Kingdom
Recording producer
Mark Brown
Recording engineer
Antony Howell
Hyperion usage
  1. Mendelssohn: Choral Music (CDA66359)
    Disc 1 Track 13
    Release date: December 1989
    Deletion date: November 2005
    Superseded by CDH55268
  2. Mendelssohn: Choral Music (CDH55268)
    Disc 1 Track 13
    Release date: April 2007
    Deletion date: October 2014
    Helios (Hyperion's budget label) — Archive Service
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