Imagine a world without Johann Sebastian Bach. Without his name, without his music, without his genius. Because despite Bach’s being popular enough during his lifetime, his complex, innovative, utterly exceptional musical language became outdated after his death; he fell into oblivion and was eventually only known to a circle of a few initiated music lovers
A world without Bach is almost what would have happened, had it not been for a young, brilliant, enthusiastic composer who, in the late 1820s, conducted a performance of an almost forgotten author born two centuries before – Bach’s Saint Matthew’s Passion. Not only did the event take the world by storm but it also brought the old master back to his rightful place and also brought the musician for it to international fame.
Mendelssohn, the composer of beauty and balance
This brilliant, enthusiastic young man was German Felix Mendelssohn, born in 1809 as the grandson of philosopher Moses Mendelssohn and son of banker Abraham Mendelssohn. Only five years after that Bach revival, Mendelssohn, a precocious, highly talented composer and conductor, writer of a music whose beauty and balance would remain characteristic throughout his output, began working on a piece indeed much indebted to the style of Bach.
This is Paulus (Saint Paul), the oratorio centred on Apostle Paul – his conversion from persecutor to servant of Christ and his consequent missionary life. Bringing together sections from the Bible, Julius Schubring offered Mendelssohn a text upon which the composer would build an extremely melodious, beautifully orchestrated, classically harmonious, with more than a hint of Romantic tension, profoundly personal musical statement.
A moving and colourful
The oratorio was commissioned by Johann Nepomuk Schelble, conductor of the Cäcilien Choir and Orchestra in Frankfurt – the same choir that participated in that historical performance of Saint Matthew’s Passion. Dedicated to the said ensemble, Saint Paul was first heard in 1836, hosted not by Frankfurt (Schelble had fallen ill) but by the Lower Rhine Music Festival in Dusseldorf. The first performance was marked by several events in the life of Mendelssohn; his father died suddenly, thus making this work of a 27-years old Felix a musical tribute to his parent; going to Frankfurt in order to help to Schelble the composer got engaged and finally married, therefore fulfilling his father’s wish of finding a wife; and – to lighten things up even more – the only bad moment of the premiere, a false note, sang by one of the vocalists, was promptly corrected by Mendelssohn’s sister, accomplished composer and pianist Fanny, who gave the right melody from her place in the alto section of the choir.
The European Union Choir returns to one of their old flames: after having marked their 50th anniversary, in 2008, with a performance of their beloved Mendelssohn’s Elijah, the Choir now proudly presents you his first, undeservedly less-known oratorio, Saint Paul.
The European Union Choir
Ensemble Orchestral de Bruxelles
Hilde Copé, soprano
Martine Gaspar, alto
Ivan Goossens, tenore
Matthew Zadow, baritone
Sunday, October 23 - 4 p.m.
Royal Conservatory Brussels
More info : 0489 51 93 95
We invite you to witness this work of particular beauty in our Autumn concert, as on 23rd October, at the Brussels Royal Conservatory, The European Union Choir returns to one of its old flames: after having marked its 50th anniversary in 2008, with a performance of its beloved Mendelssohn's Elijah, the Choir now proudly presents to you its first, undeservedly less-known oratorio, SaintPaul.
Discover this superb masterpiece in the company of the ensemble Orchestral de Bruxelles led in turns by Dirk De Moor, the Choir's Director, and his young guest and frequent collaborator, Anthony Vigneron, and soloists Hilde Copé (sop.), Martine Gaspar (alt.), Ivan Goossens (ten.) and Mathiew Zadow (bar.).
Program notes compiled by Maria Monica Bojin