Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy (1809–1847) Hymn of Praise MWV A 18 Op. 52
Symphony-Cantata – Urtext edited by Wulf Konold [solos,dble mix ch,orch] duration: 64' Text: Bibel / Bible
solos: SST – choir: SATB(SATB) – 126.96.36.199. – 188.8.131.52. – timp – org – str
The Urtext edition of the “Lobgesang” Symphony is the first to take into account the parts which were written for the first performances in Leipzig and which help clear up a number of discrepant readings.
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Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy was commissioned by the city of Leipzig to write the Symphony Cantata Lobgesang for the 400th anniversary of the invention of the printing press by Johannes Gutenberg. The work was given its first performance in Leipzigs Thomaskirche on 25 June 1840. Another performance took place at the Birmingham Music Festival on 23 September 1840. The composer created a hybrid genre here, a formal designation that he took quite literally and which he used here for the first and only time: after the three symphonic movements have flowed one into the other attacca, comes the Lobgesang Cantata in several sections Alles, was Odem hat. The present Urtext edition is the first to take into account the parts which were written for the first performances in Leipzig and which help clear up a number of discrepant readings.
„Der Herausgeber hat sich die Mühe gemacht, die 1841 im selben Verlag erstveröffentlichte Partitur mit dem Erstdruck der Stimmen zu vergleichen und konnte mit im Stimmensatz gefundenen Angaben zur Artikulation, Dynamik etc. die neue Partitur enorm bereichern." (Hans Gebhard, Chor und Konzert )
|2. Chorus: Allegro moderato maestoso|
|4. Chorus: A tempo moderato|
|5. Duet - Chorus: Andante|
|6. Solos: Allegro un poco agitato|
|7. Chorus: Allegro maestoso e molto vivace|
|8. Chorale: Andante con moto|
|9. Duet: Andante sostenuto assai|
|10. Final Chorus: Allegro non troppo|
Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy’s “Symphony Cantata on Words from the Holy Scriptures”, which bears the title Lobgesang, was written in 1840. The occasion was the 400th anniversary of Johannes Gutenberg’s invention of the printing press. Wanting to celebrate this in a manner befitting the city of printers and publishers, the Leipzig City Council commissioned its Gewandhaus Music Director to write a festive work. The first ideas about the Lobgesang which had been preceded by three fully elaborated symphonic works, came to Mendelssohn in 1839. Later Mendelssohn catalogued the Lobgesang as his Symphony No. 2. He considered only the C minor Symphony op. 11, but not the Reformation Symphony in D minor op. 107 (1830) nor the Italian Symphony in A major op. 90 (1833) as fit for publication. The latter two were not published until after the composer’s death.
The Lobgesang was given its first performance in Leipzig’s Thomaskirche on 25 June 1840. Another performance took place at the Birmingham Music Festival on 23 September 1840. The first version of the work (unpublished to this day) was the version played at both concerts, which were both conducted by the composer. Mendelssohn decided to expand and revise the work when it was scheduled for a repeat performance at the annual concert for the Pension Fund of the Gewandhaus Orchestra in Leipzig on 3 December 1840. Furthermore it was to be followed on 16 December by another performance, for which the work’s dedicatee, King Friedrich August II of Saxony, had announced his visit to Leipzig. Mendelssohn wrote to his friend Karl Klingemann in London: “I will be including four new pieces, and as to the three symphonic movements which are already at the copyist’s, quite a bit has been improved there too.”
Breitkopf & Härtel in Leipzig began its preparations to publish the work in early 1841. The orchestral parts were first engraved, then the piano score, the choral parts and the full score.
Since Mendelssohn kept polishing and revising his works over and over again, the autograph often does not represent the absolute final version. The case of the Lobgesang is not different. Although the composer entered his revision of the first version into his autograph, he had his copyist Eduard Amadeus Henschke produce a copy of the score which served as the engraver’s model, supplementing the manuscript parts of the revised version (see below). This copy of the score was then apparently sent to the publisher Novello in London for the publication of the English version. Since it is widely identical with the first edition of the Breitkopf & Härtel score, it did not have to be taken into serious consideration for this edition.
The most urgent concern of the present edition was to restore the musical text of the first edition. To this end, we essentially used the first editions of the score and the orchestral parts as our source. Unfortunately, it was impossible to consult the choral parts of the first edition, which are presumably no longer extant. As to the choral parts, their only source is the first edition of the score.
As sources, the following two items are of secondary importance: the autograph, because it tends to correspond to the first version; and the score in Breitkopf & Härtel’s old complete edition of 1877 (Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy. Werke. Kritisch durchgesehen von Julius Rietz. Leipzig, 1877), which shows a prevailing tendency to standardize dynamic runs and articulation marks, even when the musical structure is somewhat divergent in the parts.
The dynamic signs, slurs and other articulation marks that are found in the parts are often missing in the first edition of the score. The first edition of the set of parts (which had not been taken into consideration for the previous editions) proved greatly helpful and revealing here. It was possible to provide an editorially satisfactory solution to almost all of the ambiguous passages in the score with the help of this source (in which only the organ part is missing). The value of the first edition of the parts is thus extraordinarily high, particularly when considering that some of the results of the rehearsals (at least for the aforementioned Leipzig performance of 16 December 1840) found their way into the manuscript orchestral parts and, subsequently, into the printed version as well. Moreover, Mendelssohn not only repeatedly and meticulously corrected the proofs of the parts – as can be inferred from the correspondence between Mendelssohn and Breitkopf & Härtel –, but also gave them a run-through in a private orchestral reading on 10 April 1841.
Nevertheless, we should not fail to mention that in spite of all the pains Mendelssohn took with his corrections, a number of inconsistencies made certain editorial decisions necessary. Information concerning these decisions is provided in the “Kritischer Bericht” in the appendix.
I take particular pleasure in the fact that the source-critical yet practice-oriented new edition of the Lobgesang, which was initiated in 1990 by Breitkopf & Härtel for the 150th anniversary of its world premiere, and the preparation of which was begun in Wiesbaden, was able to be continued and brought to its conclusion with the help of the editors in Leipzig, where Mendelssohn lived and worked.
Hamburg, Spring 1996
1) For a detailed examination of the genesis as well as an analysis and in-depth comparison of the first version and the printed version, see Wulf Konold: Die Symphonien Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdys, Laaber, 1992, pp. 100–212 and 414–421.
2) Karl Klingemann (ed.): Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdys Briefwechsel mit Legationsrat Karl Klingemann in London, Essen, 1909, p. 251 (letter of 18 November 1840).
3) The copy is located today in the Bodleian Library in Oxford (class. no. c.93). The editor is grateful to Ralf Wehner (Research Unit of the Leipzig Mendelssohn Edition in the Sächsische Akademie der Wissenschaften zu Leipzig) for the information.
4) Rudolf Elvers (ed.): Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy. Briefe an deutsche Verleger, Berlin, 1968, pp. 106–123.