Conducted by Markus Stenz, the Radio Filharmonisch Orkest (Radio Philharmonic Orchestra; Dutch abbreviation RFO) plays Felix Mendelssohn’s Symphony No. 2 in B-flat major, Op. 52, commonly known as Lobgesang (Hymn of Praise).

Felix Mendelssohn, the rediscoverer of Bach, reflected Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony in his Second Symphony: a long orchestral introduction forms the start of a large-scale and festive choir composition. “Lobgesang” is according to Mendelssohn a “universal hymn to the words of the last psalm: Everything that has breath, love the Lord.”
Performers:
Radio Philharmonic Orchestra
Large broadcasting choir
Markus Stenz, conductor
Rosemary Joshua, soprano
Rosanne van Sandwijk, soprano
Attilio Glaser, tenor
Maxim Rysanov, viola
Recording: 23 January 2015 in De Vrijdag van Vredenburg, TivoliVrededenburg, Utrecht

Founded in 1945, The Radio Filharmonisch Orkest (Radio Philharmonic Orchestra; Dutch abbreviation RFO) is a Dutch radio orchestra, based in Hilversum. The RFO performs under the aegis of the Muziekcentrum van de Omroep (Broadcasting Music Centre; NMBC), an umbrella organization bringing together the music departments of the various broadcasting associations affiliated to Nederlandse Publieke Omroep (Dutch Public Broadcasting).

The RFO performs on Radio 4 (Netherlands) and gives public concerts in Amsterdam and Utrecht. It has also served as the orchestra for productions at De Nederlandse Opera.

Symphony No. 2 of Mendelssohn

Felix Mendelssohn, the re-discoverer of Bach, reflected in his Second Symphony in Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, a long orchestral introduction is leading up to a large and festive choral composition. “Lobgesang ‘according Mendelssohn a universal hymn to the words of the last psalm: Everything that has breath praise the Lord.”

The composer’s description of the work was “A Symphony-Cantata on Words of the Holy Bible, for Soloists, Chorus and Orchestra”. It requires two sopranos and a tenor as soloists, along with a chorus and orchestra. It lasts almost twice as long as any of Mendelssohn’s other four symphonies.

Structurally, it consists of three purely orchestral movements followed by 11 movements for chorus and/or soloists and orchestra, and lasts approximately 65–70 minutes in total. The English titles of the 11 vocal movements are:

  1. All men, all things, all that have life and breath
  2. Praise ye the Lord O ye Spirit
  3. Sing ye Praise
  4. All ye that cried unto the Lord
  5. I waited for the Lord
  6. The Shadows of Death
  7. The Night is Departing
  8. Let all men praise the Lord
  9. My song shall be always Thy Mercy
  10. Ye nations, offer to the Lord.

Text (with English translation)

1. Symphony

2. Chorus and Soprano Solo

Alles, was Odem hat, lobe den Herrn. (Psalm 150)
Lobt den Herrn mit Saitenspiel, lobt ihn mit eurem Lied. (Psalm 33)

Und alles Fleisch lobe seinen heiligen Namen. (Psalm 145)

Lobe den Herrn, meine Seele, und was in mir ist, seinen heiligen Namen.
Lobe den Herrn, meine Seele, und vergiß es nicht, was er dir Gutes getan. (Psalm 103)

Everything that has breath praise the Lord. (Psalm 150)
Praise the Lord with the lyre, praise him with your song. (Psalm 33)

And let all flesh bless his holy name. (Psalm 145)

Bless the Lord, O my soul, and that is within me, bless his holy name.
Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not that he has done you good. (Psalm 103)

3. Tenor Recitative and Aria

Saget es, die ihr erlöst seid durch den Herrn,
die er aus der Not errettet hat,
aus schwerer Trübsal, aus Schmach und Banden,
die ihr gefangen im Dunkel waret,
alle, die er erlöst hat aus der Not.
Saget es! Danket ihm und rühmet seine Güte! (Psalm 107)
Er zählet unsre Tränen in der Zeit der Noth,
er tröstet die Betrübten mit seinem Wort. (Psalm 56)

Saget es! Danket ihm und rühmet seine Güte.

Say it that you are redeemed by the Lord,
he has delivered them out of trouble,
of severe tribulation, from shame and bondage
captives in the darkness,
all which he hath redeemed from distress
Say it! Give thanks to him and praise ye, His goodness! (Psalm 107)
He numbers our tears in our time of need,
he comforts the afflicted with his word. (Psalm 56)

Say it! Give thanks to him and praise ye his kindness.

4. Chorus

Saget es, die ihr erlöset seid von dem Herrn aus aller Trübsal.
Er zählet unsere Tränen in der Zeit der Noth.

Say it that you are redeemed by the Lord out of all tribulation.
He numbers our tears in our time of need.

5. Soprano Duet and Chorus

Ich harrete des Herrn, und er neigte sich zu mir und hörte mein Flehn.
Wohl dem, der seine Hoffnung setzt auf den Herrn!
Wohl dem, der seine Hoffnung setzt auf ihn! (Psalm 40)

I waited patiently for the Lord, and He inclined to me and heard my supplication.
Blessed is the man whose hope is in the Lord!
Blessed is the man whose hope is in him! (Psalm 40)

6. Tenor Aria and Recitative

Stricke des Todes hatten uns umfangen,
und Angst der Hölle hatte uns getroffen,
wir wandelten in Finsternis. (Psalm 116)
Er aber spricht: Wache auf! der du schläfst,
stehe auf von den Toten, ich will dich erleuchten! (Ephesians 5:14)

Wir riefen in der Finsternis: Hüter, ist die Nacht bald hin?
Der Hüter aber sprach:
Wenn der Morgen schon kommt, so wird es doch Nacht sein;
wenn ihr schon fraget, so werdet ihr doch wiederkommen
und wieder fragen: Hüter, ist die Nacht bald hin? (Isaiah 21:11–12)

The sorrows of death encompassed us
and fear of hell had struck us,
We wandered in darkness. (Psalm 116)
He saith, Awake! you who sleep,
arise from the dead, I will enlighten you! (Ephesians 5:14)

We called in the darkness, Watchman, will the night soon pass?
But the Watchman said:
if the morning comes soon, it will yet again be night;
and if you ask, you will return
and ask again, Watchman, will the night soon pass? (Isaiah 21:11–12)

7. Chorus

Die Nacht ist vergangen, der Tag aber herbei gekommen.
So laßt uns ablegen die Werke der Finsternis,
und anlegen die Waffen des Lichts,
und ergreifen die Waffen des Lichts. (Romans 13:12)

The night has passed, but the day has come.
So let us cast off the works of darkness,
and put on the armor of light,
and take up the armor of light. (Romans 13:12)

8. Chorale

Nun danket alle Gott mit Herzen, Mund und Händen,
der sich in aller Not will gnädig zu uns wenden,
der so viel Gutes tut, von Kindesbeinen an
uns hielt in seiner Hut und allen wohlgetan.
Lob Ehr und Preis sei Gott, dem Vater und dem Sohne,
und seinem heilgen Geist im höchsten Himmelsthrone.
Lob dem dreiein’gen Gott, der Nacht und Dunkel schied
von Licht und Morgenrot, ihm danket unser Lied. (Evangelisches Kirchengesangbuch; Text v. Martin Rinckart, 1636)

Now let us all thank God with hearts and hands and voices,
who in all adversity will be merciful to us,
who does so much good, who from childhood
has kept us in his care and done well to all.
Praise, honor, and glory be to God the Father, and the Son,
and his Holy Spirit on heaven’s highest throne.
Praise to God, three in one, who separated night and darkness
from light and dawn, give thanks to him with our song. (Evangelical Church Hymnal, text Rinckart v. Martin, 1636)

9. Soprano and Tenor Duet

Drum sing ich mit meinem Liede ewig dein Lob, du treuer Gott!
Und danke dir für alles Gute, das du an mir getan.
Und wandl’ ich in der Nacht und tiefem Dunkel
und die Feinde umher stellen mir nach,
so rufe ich an den Namen des Herrn,
und er errettet mich nach seiner Güte.

So I sing your praises with my song forever, faithful God!
And thank you for all the good you have done to me.
Though I wonder in the night and deep darkness
and enemies beset me all around
I will call upon the name of the Lord,
and he saved me by His goodness.

10. Chorus

Ihr Völker! bringet her dem Herrn Ehre und Macht!
Ihr Könige! bringet her dem Herrn Ehre und Macht!
Der Himmel bringe her dem Herrn Ehre und Macht!
Die Erde bringe her dem Herrn Ehre und Macht! (Psalm 96)
Alles danke dem Herrn!
Danket dem Herrn und rühmt seinen Namen
und preiset seine Herrlichkeit. (I Chronicles 16:8–10)

Alles, was Odem hat, lobe den Herrn, Halleluja! (Psalm 150)

You peoples! give unto the Lord glory and strength!
You kings! give unto the Lord glory and strength!
The sky will bring forth the Lord glory and strength!
Let the earth bring forth the Lord glory and strength! (Psalm 96)
All thanks to the Lord!
Praise the Lord and exalt his name
and praise his glory. (I Chronicles 16:8–10)

Everything that has breath praise the Lord, Hallelujah! (Psalm 150)

Sources

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1 Comment

  1. This is a very impressive performance indeed. Mendelssohn’s ‘Lobgesang’ Is one of my favourite works from the repertoire, though I generally prefer it performed on ‘original instruments’. However, in my opinion, this performance on modern instruments by the RFO could justifiably be described as ‘historically informed’ on account of its beautiful articulation and phrasing. In the first few moments, I had concerns over what I perceived as too much legato in the trombones’ solo (this may have been something to do with the recording, however, or even a momentary lapse of concentration on my part) but within minutes, I was very content indeed with the playing of the entire brass section. Moreover, the strings and woodwind were absolutely ravishing and that magnificent soprano whose name, sadly, isn’t shown here, has great power combined, unusually, with considerable lyricism. I have been frequently less than satisfied with many of the soprano soloists whom I have heard in ‘Lobgesang’, with the exception of Soile Isokoski (in my view, the definitive Mendelssohn soprano) under Christoph Spering and Das Neue Orchester (Muenchen). In their recording (Op. 111/Naive), they take the movement where the soprano comes in for the first time (Lobe den Herrn, meine Seele) rather more briskly, but I believe that the somewhat slower tempo adopted by the RFO in this performance under Markus Stenz allows the listener the luxury of savouring the beauty of Mendelssohn’s magnificent score. I recently bought yet yet another version of ‘Lobgesang’ on CD because of the superb performance of tenor soloist Christoph Pregardien, but I was yet again not altogether happy with the soprano soloist on that recording. I’m about to start searching for a CD version of the present recording with the RFO under Markus Stenz, which I stumbled upon by chance, because for me it has been an absolute revelation! Thank you to all the musicians (not forgetting the wonderful members of the chorus) who contributed to this truly breathtaking rendition of Mendelssohn’s great work.

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