- Paulus (Saint Paul), oratorio, Op. 36
Mendelssohn: Paulusby Frieder Bernius
"Paulus," Mendelssohn's two-hour oratorio, is rarely performed today, but during his lifetime it was his most popular work. "Elijah" is a richer and more musically mature work, and it has a more inherently dramatic story, so it's not surprising that it has eclipsed "Paulus"' popularity. "Paulus" demonstrates Mendelssohn admiration for the Passions of Bach and the oratorios of Handel, and also his indebtedness to the conventions of those pieces, particularly in the recitatives and in the contrapuntal rigor of some of the choruses. The first half, which deals with Paul's conversion, is the more dramatic; the composer's decision to use a four-part women's choir to voice the words of Jesus was controversial, but is highly effective. The second half deals with Paul's ministry in generalities, omitting the dramatic narratives from the book of Acts that could have made it truly compelling. While Mendelssohn's writing only sporadically rises to the highest level of inspiration, the oratorio is never less than lovely, and it is occasionally genuinely powerful and moving. The performance by Kammerchor Stuttgart and Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen, led by Frieder Bernius, is polished, and makes a strong case for the work, as do the vocal soloists. Maria Cristina Kiehr sings both the soprano and mezzo-soprano solos with pure and focused, if not particularly full tone. Tenor Werner Güra and bass Michael Volle bring strong voices and dramatic intensity to the music. The sound of the Carus SACD is well balanced and notable for its clarity.
- Release Date:
Performance CreditsFrieder Bernius Primary Artist
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