Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy (1809–1847) Heilig (1844) MWV B 47
Urtext based on the Leipzig Mendelssohn Complete Edition edited by Ralf Wehner [mix ch(8pt)]
8 pages | 19 x 27 cm | 24 g | ISMN: 979-0-004-41241-1 | Saddle Stitch
One little first edition shared the limelight with some of the more spectacular releases.
The previously unknown Heilig MWV B 47, which was presumably written in 1844 at about the time of other choral works written by the composer for the Royal Cathedral Choir in Berlin. The choral piece, which is only 25 measures long, was rehearsed several times back then, but not performed in public. The autograph soon disappeared into the album of a Viennese collector. Although Mendelssohn, upon sending him the piece, insisted that it was "not intended for the public," he wanted above all to block a publication that he would not have been able to control. Today, Heilig expands our knowledge of the composer's artistic personality during his last period of creativity while at the same time adding a rewarding little a cappella piece to the repertoire.
This publication is the first edition of a hitherto unknown eight-part choral work from the late oeuvre of Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy (1809–1847). It hails from a segment of his works whose perimeters have long been delimited and which is connected to the post Mendelssohn held as Prussian General Music Director for church and sacred music at the court of King Friedrich Wilhelm IV in the 1840s. A special role is played here by the Königlicher Domchor (Royal Cathedral Choir) of Berlin, for which Mendelssohn wrote the greater part of his sacred works, i. e. the music whose liturgical ties earn it the designation of “church music” in the narrowest sense of the term. Next to a few marginal works, the most widely known pieces are the Psalms printed posthumously as a collection [op. 78], namely Psalm 2 “Warum toben die Heiden” MWV B41, Psalm 43 “Richte mich, Gott” MWV B 46 and Psalm 22 “Mein Gott, warum hast du mich verlassen” MWV B 51, as well as the Sechs Sprüche [op. 79], the Psalm 100 “Jauchzet dem Herrn, alle Welt” MWV B 45 and parts of the Deutsche Liturgie MWV B57. At the close of this last work, which was written in late October 1846 and consists of several movements and liturgical formulae, is a Heilig, which was first printed in 1855. It is a 49-measure double chorus in D major which still enjoys great popularity to this day and can be ranked among the most valued examples of Mendelssohn’s sacred a cappella music. What is practically unknown, however, is that this work also has a companion piece in E flat major of equal quality which was written nearly three years earlier. It is also in eight parts and was also dedicated to the Berlin Domchor. With its 25 measures, it is considerably more succinct; however, thanks to its Adagio tempo, its performing time approximates that of the con moto piece of 1846. Moreover, it, too, revels in the glorious sonorities and dynamic nuances found in the later Heilig.
The composer himself is responsible for the fact that the Heilig MWV B47 presented here for the first time remained unknown for so long. He had appended his signature to the undated work autograph (a single sheet with writing and repeated corrections on both recto and verso) and sent it – without keeping a copy – to Johann Vesque von Püttlingen in Vienna on 7 April 1844. In his cover letter, he pointed out that the piece had been “written for a special occasion for the cathedral here,” and was intended “not for the public, but only for the album.” To this day, the piece has remained in Vesque von Püttlingen’s album, an extremely opulent exemplar of its genre. Only recently has it become possible to somewhat narrow down the “special occasion:” the Heilig was apparently conceived for the Krönungs- und Ordensfest (Feast of the Coronation and Order) on 21 January 1844. For reasons unknown, it was not performed, although it was definitely rehearsed several times. This is why it seems likely to have been written in mid January 1844. Biographically, the piece thus falls into the opening phase of Mendelssohn’s work with the cathedral choir. Among the first artistic peaks of this activity was the music for the religious services of Christmas 1843 and New Year’s 1844. On 1 January 1844 Mendelssohn also set Psalm 100 “Jauchzet dem Herrn, alle Welt” MWV B45, which was first performed one week later, on 7 January, and given its second hearing at the above-mentioned “Coronation Feast” on 21 January 1844. This time it was performed together with “Ehre sei dem Vater” MWV B48, composed on 17 January. Also dating from January 1844 are the Psalm 43 “Richte mich, Gott” MWV B46 and the present Heilig MWV B47. Mendelssohn’s reminder to Vesque von Püttlingen that the Heilig was not intended for the public and expressly “not to be entrusted to other hands” did not primarily concern the work as such, or its quality, but was essentially voiced to preclude the potential publication of the gift by the recipient without the composer’s knowledge. Mendelssohn had made some bad experiences in this respect, and voiced such restrictions several times. Today, however, as we deal with the works under completely different circumstances and more than 150 years later, it is fascinating and stimulating alike to become acquainted not only with unknown versions of well-known works, but also with such long-hidden treasures which help diversify our view of Mendelssohn’s artistic personality.
Notwithstanding Mendelssohn’s original notation of the vocal parts (treble clef for the four female voices, tenor clef for tenors I and II), modern clefs were used for the score of the present edition. In measures 17 (Alto I, Basso I), 20 and 21 (Tenore I, II, Basso I), as well as 22 and 23 (Soprano II, Alto I, II), Mendelssohn provided additional slurs which were intended to clarify the distribution of the text at short melismatic passages. Since these slurs are missing at similar measures towards the end of the work, and since there is absolutely nothing ambiguous about the distribution of the text (indicated, as was the custom, with short dashes within words, and with a long stroke at final syllables), such inconsistently set slurs were not incorporated into the music text. We extend our warmest thanks to the Schottenstift in Vienna, and in particular to its archivist Dr. Martin Czernin, for allowing us to make use of the source from its collections and enabling us to finally make this rewarding work available to a broader circle of music lovers once again in the Mendelssohn anniversary year 2009.
Leipzig, Spring 2009
We offer a PDF of the complete text with all notes for download.