Composers Datebook®

Mendelssohn's Second

Felix Mendelssohn (1809 – 1847) –Symphony No. 2 (Hymn of Praise) (Netherlands Radio Philharmonic and Chorus; Edo de Waart, cond.) Fidelio 9202


Composer's Datebook - 20220625

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June 25, 2022

Synopsis

In the middle of the 15th century, a German printer by the name of Johann Gutenberg invented a method of printing from moveable type cast in metal. His invention revolutionized the way books were printed, and the widespread dissemination of Gutenberg Bibles made him famous in Europe.

In the summer of 1840, the city of Leipzig planned to unveil a new statue of Gutenberg, and commissioned composer Felix Mendelssohn for two new works. The first, for two choirs, would accompany the unveiling of the statue of Gutenberg, and would take place in the city’s open marketplace after the morning church service on June 24th. The following day, June 25th, there would be a gala concert in Leipzig’s St. Thomas Church featuring the church choir and the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra performing a new symphony by Mendelssohn.

Mendelssohn’s Symphony No. 2, entitled “Lobgesang,” or “Hymn of Praise,” is modeled on Beethoven’s Ninth, opening with purely instrumental movements, and concluding with a finale for vocal soloists and chorus. Mendelssohn’s text was taken from Martin Luther’s German-language translation of the Bible. Since the premiere was intended for St. Thomas Church, where the master of counterpoint Johann Sebastian Bach had once been Kantor, Mendelssohn chose to end his Symphony with a big fugue.

Music Played in Today's Program

Felix Mendelssohn (1809 – 1847) –Symphony No. 2 (Hymn of Praise) (Netherlands Radio Philharmonic and Chorus; Edo de Waart, cond.) Fidelio 9202

On This Day

Births

  • 1860 - French composer Gustave Charpentier, in Dieuze, Lorraine;

  • 1935 - Austrian composer Kurt Schwertsik, in Vienna;

Deaths

  • 1767 - German composer Georg Philipp Telemann, age 86, in Hamburg;

  • 1822 - German composer, critic and popular Romantic author Ernst Theodor Amadeus ("E.T.A.") Hoffmann, age 46, in Berlin;

Premieres

  • 1840 - For the 400th anniversary of the Gutenberg Printing Press, Mendelssohn presents his Symphony No. 2, "Lobegesang" (Song of Praise) at the Thomaskirche in Leipzig;

  • 1850 - R. Schumann: opera "Genoveva," in Leipzig at the Stadttheater;

  • 1910 - Stravinsky: ballet, "The Firebird," at the Paris Opera, with Gabriel Pierné conducting;

  • 1923 - de Falla: one-act opera "El retablo de maese Pedro" (Master Peter's Puppet Show), first staged performance in Paris at the home of the Princesse de Polignac; This opera was premiered in a concert performance in Seville on March 23, 1923;

  • 1940 - William Grant Still: choral ballad "And They Lynched Him on a Tree," at New York's Lewisohn Stadium by the Schola Cantorum and Wen Talbert Negro Choir with the New York Philharmonic, Arthur Rodzinksi conducting;

  • 1954 - Leroy Anderson: "Sandpaper Baller" at a Decca recording session in New York City, with the composer conducting; Three different grades of sandpaper rubbed together were used to make the vaudeville-style "soft shoe" dancing sound effects for this classic recording;

  • 1955 - Grofé: "Hudson RIver" Suite, in Washington, D.C., by the National Symphony conducted by André Kostelanetz;

  • 1991 - James MacMillan: "Tuireadh" (Lament) for clarinet and string quartet, by James Campbell and the Allegri Quartet at St. Magnus Cathedral in Kirkwall (Orkney Islands).