Albert Clement Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy and the chorale. Deel 1: In Johann Sebastian Bach’s footsteps
Het ORGEL 104 (2009), nr. 6, 34-43 [summary]

There has been almost no attention paid to Mendelssohn’s relationship with the Lutheran chorale. Already in Mendelssohn’s youth he was interested in Johann Sebastian Bach and – inevitably – the Lutheran chorale. A significant event was his performance van Bach’s Matthäus-Passion in 1829. Mendelssohn omitted certain chorales in this performance, and it is unclear whether he did this only for religious reasons. Possibly he did it to conform Bach’s passion to the Zeitgeist and the expectations of the early-19th-century listener. With the cuts and the emphasis on the dramatic aspects of the passion story in Bach’s work he was able to convince the public.
Just as in Bach’s œuvre the Lutheran chorale plays an important role in the œuvre of Mendelssohn. Not only in his organ works but also in other compositions Mendelssohn regularly used chorales that we also find in Bach’s œuvre. At least as significant as the choice of these chorales is the way in which Mendelssohn the composer treats them. Here we see – just as in Bach – a truly excellent understanding of the theological background of the chorales. This is true as well for the apt selection of certain verses within a specific context.



Mendelssohn by Carl Begas at the age of 12


Bach-Statue Mendelssohn in Leipzig