Te Deum in D - Felix Mendelssohn (1809 - 1847)


On November 4th 1847, Mendelssohn died at the age of 38.  Famous and celebrated, his eminence and popularity in this country as a composer of choral music rest almost entirely on the enormous success of his oratorio Elijah which received its first performance in Birmingham Town Hall in 1846. His other completed oratorio, St. Paul (1834-6) and his Symphony-Cantata Hymn of Praise (1840) are also well known to choral societies everywhere. However, these three works give a very one-sided impression of Mendelssohn's output of choral music, in that there are over 40 other choral compositions, some long, some short.

There are settings of German texts for the Protestant Church, Latin settings for the Roman Church, music for the Church of England (the beautiful and evergreen anthem Hear my prayer (1844) comes to mind) and a setting of the 100th Psalm for the Temple in Hamburg. A surprising number of his earlier compositions have only appeared in print during recent years.
The Te Deum was written in 1826 when he was only 17 years old. Two other notable works, the Octet for strings and the incidental music for Midsummer Night's Dream were composed about the same time. Mendelssohn's complete mastery of every aspect of choral writing is evident throughout the work. He looks back to the music of Bach and still earlier composers but the result is unmistakeably Mendelssohn. (Mendelssohn was responsible for the performance of Bach's St. Matthew Passion in 1829, a century after its first performance, and the first given after Bach's lifetime.)
For accompaniment in the Te Deum he uses baroque continuo only: cello, bass and organ. Eight soloists are used, the four principal ones singing the two quartets, Patrem immensae majestatis and Te ergo quaesumus, The chorus usually sings as a double chorus; in Dignare Domine the eight soloists are briefly joined by the chorus in a texture of 16 parts. Mendelssohn sets the traditional Latin text and uses the music of the imposing opening Te Deum laudamus again at the very end of the work, to the words In te, Domine, speravi.
The work is divided musically into 12 sections:
1. Chorus Te Deum laudamus We praise thee, 0 God
2. Chorus & Soli Tu aeternum Patrem All the world doth worship thee
3. Chorus Tibi omnes Angeli To thee all Angels cry aloud
4.Octet & Chorus Tibi Cherubin To thee Cherubin and Seraphin
5. Chorus Te gloriosum Apostolorum The glorious company of the apostles praise thee
6. Quartet Patrem immensae majestatis The father of an infinite majesty.
7. Chorus Tu rex gloriae Thou art the King of Glory
8. Quartet Te ergo quaesumus We therefore pray thee
9. Chorus alvum fac populum tuum 0 Lord, save thy people
10. Chorus Per singulos dies Day by day we magnify thee
11. Octet & Chorus Dignare, Domine Vouchsafe, 0 Lord, to keep us this day without sin
12. Octet & Fiat misericordia tua 0 Lord, let thy mercy lighten
upon us
Chorus In te Domine, speravi 0 Lord, in thee have I trusted


David Lloyd

Gwent Bach Society


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