Psalm 22 again; Mendelssohn

Incipit to SATB motet on Psalm 22:1-3 by John Blow (1649-1708) Listen>

The post two days ago on Psalm 22 in the readings for Good Friday was enriched by a fine a cappella rendition of a favourite Sibelius hymn, suggested by a revered musician, singer, educator and member of our community, a community now dutifully isolated here in Canberra, Australia.

Such listening suggestions — and indeed such patterns of isolation —  are important in these difficult times. Your favourite psalm or music selections can be shared in the comments below or via the Contact page.

‘Deus, Deus meus, respice in me: quare me dereliquisti?’ Psalm 22:1 in the Luttrell Psalter, c. 1330. British Library Add MS 42130 folio 42r. Note the tiny ’21:’ at margin left of illuminated capital D, indicating Psalm 21 in the Vulgate numbering.

This psalm, given prominence in Christian observances by quotes at the crucifixion, has been treated to many good settings. Listen to a beautiful setting Mein Gott, warum hast Du mich verlassen? by Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy (1809 – 1847). This version is sung by the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir:

Like the Psalter itself, Mendelssohn rejoiced in Jewish and Christian heritage, as well as post-Renaissance humanist and romantic atmospherics. His youthful rediscovery and performance of an almost-forgotten St Matthew Passion, written a hundred years earlier in 1727 by J S Bach, led to a revival of the popularity of that earlier composer that remains vibrant to this day.

Psalms in the South Singers over the years have gathered on Saturdays to rehearse, largely unawares, under a poster of the commemorative stained glass windows dedicated to Mendelssohn.

The actual window may be seen in the famous St Thomas church in Leipzig, overlooking the tomb of J S Bach. There Mendelssohn worked with Leipzig’s cultural organisations including Bach’s Thomanerchor boys’ choir, continuously active since before the Reformation and still much revered today.

So many talented people in all walks of life, like Mendelssohn, died so early. He still managed to compose some 750 works. Make hay, friends; or as we heard last Sunday:

My times are in your hands; … let your face shine upon me.

PS: Speaking of Leipzig, some years ago we hosted visiting singers from the five-voice Leipzig Ensemble Nobiles, all graduates of the Thomanerchor. Like many in the performing and visual arts, their livelihood has suffered.

We send wishes to all who are so inflicted, with assurances that we have appreciated their vital artistic enrichment and wishing them sustaining love and support from communities, families and friends.

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