Between May 1830 and October 1831 Mendelssohn undertook a gruelling tour which included stops at Munich, Salzburg, Linz, Vienna, Pressburg, Graz, Venice, Florence, Rome, Naples, Pompeii, Genoa, Milan and Geneva. By far the longest stay was in Rome, between 12 November 1830 and 10 April 1831, and it was there that he composed this prayer for peace, dated on the manuscript 10 February 1831.
This magical piece, originally scored for two flutes, two clarinets, two bassoons, strings and organ, is a continuous, three-verse setting (the same text is heard three times) in four parts. The floated introduction, premonitory of the woodwind figurations which open the Schöne Melusine overture of 1833, leads directly into the quietly contemplative first verse set for basses alone. Only the last verse utilizes the full forces available, and does so with a generous warmth of expression that leaves one in no doubt that ultimate peace cannot be far away.
from notes by Julian Haylock © 2006