Music Alive for Monday 16 March 2015
JS Bach’s motets for double choir stand at the pinnacle of works in this genre and Singet dem Herrn ein Neues Lied (Sing unto the Lord a new song) is the most ambitious and virtuosic of them all.
Mozart heard the work on a visit to the St. Thomas School in Leipzig in 1789 and, according to an account of his visit in the local paper: “As soon as the choir had sung a few bars, Mozart started; after a few more he exclaimed: 'What is that?' And now his whole soul seemed to be centered in his ears. When the song was ended, he cried out with delight: 'Now, here is something one can learn from!'“
Brahms was directly influenced by Bach’s Singet dem Herrn in his three motets written to celebrate his recent honour as a Free Citizen of the city of Hamburg.
Bach’s influence on Mendelssohn’s works for double choir is clear too, and this concert includes three of Mendelssohn’s best-known polychoral works, Kyrie, Heilig and Ehre sei Gott, intended as part of a larger work, to be titled The German Liturgy, which was never completed. Peter Walls is guest conductor for this programme, and Erin Helyard provides chamber organ solos to complement the vocal works which also include pieces for double choir by Peter Philips, William Byrd, and Philip de Monte, along with choral favourites such as Purcell’s Hear My Prayer, Lotti’s Crucifixus, Holst’s Ave Maria and Pearsall’s Lay a Garland.
Recorded live in Sacred Heart Cathedral, Wellington by Radio New Zealand