Music with Ease > Classical Music > Concert Guide: Romantic Era > Hymn of Praise (Mendelssohn)
Hymn of Praise
The "Lobgesang" ("Hymn of Praise") was written at Leipzig in 1840, the occasion which gave birth to it being the fourth centennial celebration of the introduction of the art of printing. The next is not in narrative form, nor has it any particular dramatic significance. It is what its name indicates -- a tribute of praise.
The symphony is in three parts, beginning with a Maestoso movement, in which the trombones at once give out the choral motive ("All that has Life and Breath sing to the Lord"). This movement, which is strong and energetic in character, is followed by an Allegretto based upon a beautiful melody, and to this in turn succeeds an Adagio religioso, rich in harmony. The opening chorus ("All that has Life and Breath") is based upon the choral motive, and enunciates the real "Hymn of Praise." It moves along in a stately manner, and finally leads without break into a semi-chorus ("Praise thou the Lord, O my Spirit!"), a soprano solo with accompaniment of female voices. The tenor in a long dramatic recitative ("Sing ye Praise, all ye redeemed of the Lord") urges the faithful to join in praise and extol His goodness, and the chorus responds, first the tenors, and then all the parts ("All ye that cried unto the Lord"). The next number is a duet for soprano and alto with chorus ("I waited for the Lord"). It is thoroughly devotional in style, and in its general color and effect reminds one of the arias, "Oh, rest in the Lord," from "Elijah," and "The Lord is mindful of His own," from "Saint Paul." This duet is followed by a sorrowful, almost wailing tenor solo ("The Sorrows of Death had closed all around me"), ending with the piercing, anxious cry in recitative ("Watchmen! will the Night soon pass?") set to a restless agitated accompaniment and thrice repeated. Like a flash from a cloud comes the quick response of the chorus ("The Night is departing"), which forms the climax of the work. At first the full chorus proclaims the nights departure; it then takes the fugal form on the words ("Therefore let us cast off the Works of Darkness"), effectively worked out.
In the Finale the male voices are massed on the declaration ("The Night is departing") and the female voices on the response ("The Day is approaching"); and after alternating repetitions all close in broad, flowing harmony. This chorus leads directly to the chorale ("Let all Men praise the Lord"), sung first without accompaniment, and then in unison with orchestra. Another duet ("My Song shall always be Thy Mercy"), this time for soprano and tenor, follows, and prepares the way for the final fugued chorus ("Ye Nations, offer to the Lord"), a massive number, stately in its proportions and impressive in its effect, and closing with a fortissimo delivery of the choral motive ("All that has Life and Breath").