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Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy

Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy Composer

Paulus (St. Paul), Op.36 (oratorio)   

Performances: 23
Tracks: 389
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Musicology:
  • Paulus (St. Paul), Op.36 (oratorio)
    Year: 1836
    Genre: Oratorio
    Pr. Instruments: Voice & Chorus/Choir
    • Part 1
      • 1.Overture
      • 2.Chorus: Herr, der du bist der Gott (Lord! Thou alone art God)
      • 3.Chorale: Allein Gott in der Höh sei Ehr (To God on high be thanks and praise)
      • 4.Recitative and Duet (Soprano, 2 Basses): Die Menge der Gläubigen (And the many that believed); Wir haben ihn gehört (We verily have heard); Und bewegten das Volk (And they stirred up the people)
      • 5.Chorus: Dieser Mensch hort nicht auf zu reden (Now this man ceaseth not to utter)
      • 6a.Recitative (Soprano, Tenor): Und sie sahen auf ihn Alle (And all that sat in the council); 6b.Chorus: Weg, weg mit dem (Take him away)
      • 7.Aria (Soprano): Jerusalem! Die du tötest die Propheten (Jerusalem! That that killest the Prophets)
      • 8a.Recitative (Tenor): Sie aber sturmten auf ihn ein (Then they ran upon him with one accord); 8b.Chorus: Steiniget ihn (Stone him to death)
      • 9a.Recitative (Tenor): Und sie steinigten ihn (And they stoned him); 9b.Chorale: Dir Herr, dir will ich mich ergeben (To Thee, O Lord, I yield my spirit)
      • 10.Recitative (Soprano): Und die Zeugen legten ab ihre Kleider (And the witnesses had laid down their clothes)
      • 11.Chorus: Siehe, wir preisen selig (Happy and blest are they)
      • 12a.Recitative (Tenor): Saulus aber zerstörte die Gemeinde (Now Saul made havoc of the Church); 12b.Aria (Paul): Vertilge sie, Herr Zebaoth (Consume them all, Lord Sabaoth!)
      • 13a.Recitative (Soprano): Und zog mit einer Schar (And he journey'd with companions); 13b.Aria (Soprano): Doch der Herr vergißt der Seinen nicht (But the Lord is mindful of His own)
      • 14a.Recitative (Tenor, Bass): Und als er auf dem Wege war (And as he journeyed he came); 14b.Chorus: Saul! was verfolgst du mich (Saul! why persecut'st thou Me)
      • 15.Chorus: Mache dich auf! werde Licht (Rise! Up! Arise! Rise and shine)
      • 16.Chorale: Wachet auf! ruft uns die Stimme (Sleepers, wake! A voice is calling)
      • 17.Recitative (Tenor): Die Männer aber, die seine Gefährten waren (And his companions, which journeyed with him)
      • 18.Aria (Paul): Gott, sei mir gnädig (O God, have mercy upon me)
      • 19.Recitative (Tenor, Soprano): Es war aber ein Jünger zu Damaskus (And there was a disciple at Damascus)
      • 20.Aria (Paul) and Chorus: Ich danke dir, Herr, mein Gott (I praise Thee, O Lord my God!)
      • 21.Recitative (Soprano, Tenor): Und Ananias ging hin (And Ananias went his way)
      • 22.Chorus: O welch eine Tiefe des Reichthums (O great is the depth of the Riches)
    • Part 2
      • 23.Chorus: Der Erdkreis ist nun des Herrn (The Nations are now the Lord's)
      • 24.Recitative (Soprano): Und Paulus kam zu der Gemeinde (And Paul came to the congregation)
      • 25.Duettino (Tenor, Paul): So sind wir nun Botschafter an Christi Statt (Now we are ambassadors in the name of Christ)
      • 26.Chorus: Wie lieblich sind die Boten (How lovely are the Messengers)
      • 27a.Recitative (Soprano): Und wie sie ausgesandt von dem Heilige Geist; 27b.Arioso (Soprano): Laßt uns singen von der Gnade des Herrn (I will sing of Thy great mercies, o Lord)
      • 28.Recitative (Tenor): Da aber die Juden das Volk sahn (But when the Jews saw the multitudes); Chorus: So spricht der Herr (Thus said the Lord); Recitative (Tenor): Und sie stellten Paulus nach (And they laid wait for Paul)
      • 29.Chorus and Chorale: Ist das nicht der zu Jerusalem (Is this he who in Jerusalem); O Jesu Christe, wahres Licht (O Thou, the true and only light)
      • 30.Recitative (Tenor, Paul): Paulus aber und Barnabas sprachen (But Paul and Barnabas spake freely)
      • 31.Duet (Tenor, Paul): Denn also hat uns der Herr geboten (For so hath the Lord himself commanded)
      • 32.Recitative (Soprano): Und es war ein Mann zu Lystra (And there was a man at Lystra)
      • 33.Chorus: Die Gotter sind den Menschen gleich geworden (The Gods themselves as Mortals have descended)
      • 34.Recitative (Soprano): Und nannten Barnabas Jupiter (And they called Barnabas Jupiter)
      • 35.Chorus: Seid uns gnadig, hohe Gotter (O be gracious, Ye Immortals!)
      • 36a.Recitative (Tenor, Bass): Da das die Apostel horten (Now when the Apostles heard the same); 36b.Aria (Paul): Wisset ihr nicht, dass ihr Gottes Tempel seid (For knew ye not that ye are his Temple); 36c.Chorus: Aber unser Gott ist in Himmel (But out God abideth in Heaven)
      • 37.Recitative (Soprano): Da ward das Volk erreget (Then the multitude was stirred up)
      • 38.Chorus: Hier ist des Herren Tempel (This is Jehovah's Temple)
      • 39.Recitative (Soprano): Und sie alle verfolgten Paulus (And they all persecuted Paul)
      • 40.Cavatina (Tenor): Sei getreu bis in den Tod (Be thou faithful unto death)
      • 41.Recitative (Soprano, Paul): Paulus sandte hin (and Paul sent and called the Elders)
      • 42a.Chorus: Schone doch deiner selbst (Far be it from thy path); 42b.Recitative (Paul, Tenor) Was machet ihr (What mean ye)
      • 43.Chorus: Sehet, welch eine Liebe (See, what love hath the Father)
      • 44.Recitative (Soprano): Und wenn er gleich geopfert wird (And though he be offered)
      • 45.Chorus: Nicht aber ihm allein (Not only unto him)
Felix Mendelssohn's massive oratorio Paulus (1836) is based on the story of Saul, the zealous Pharisee who, after a dramatic encounter with the risen Christ, turns from a fanatical enemy of Christians into the most influential apologist of the Christian faith. Using the New Testament, particularly the Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles as sources, Mendelssohn wrote his own version of Paul's story. While the influence of Bach and Handel are at once evident in Mendelssohn's score, Paulus is by no means a replica of the Baroque oratorio. Mendelssohn expressed his ideas with great contrapuntal facility and clarity, with a technical competence rivaling the expertise of the great Baroque masters, but his counterpoint is fresh and original, and the writing fluent and elegant.

The oratorio's overture, as well as a significant section of the first choral number, is based on the chorale "Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme" (Awake, cries to us the voice). Like Bach, Mendelssohn uses chorales to express deep, fundamental religiosity. Mendelssohn's articulation of musical symbols is highly individual, expressing the composer's personal view of Christianity. While the choruses in Paulus may seem quite conventional, for example, Mendelssohn's use of different voice combinations to present particular characters is both innovative and highly effective. To the consternation of some of Mendelssohn's contemporaries, the voice of Christ at the most dramatic moment of the oratorio—when the Savior addresses Saul directly—is portrayed by a four-part women's choir. Critics excoriated Mendelssohn for giving the fateful words "Saul, why persecutest thou me?" to women's voices, remaining blind to the sheer emotional power of this moment.

Mendelssohn's Christ, whose voice is distant, mysterious, and yet tremendously powerful, possesses an otherworldly, spectral quality, suggesting the infinitesimal closeness and infinite remoteness of God. Mendelssohn uses powerful musical symbolism to suggest the idea of Christ's dual (i.e. human and divine) nature. Following a masterful dramatic progression, Saul's breath-taking dialogue with Christ takes the entire work to its highest emotional plane. This, of course, does not mean that the rest of the narrative, the chronicle Saul's life as the Christian Paul, lacks dramatic interest, for it encompasses both the titanic struggles of a contested faith and intimations of God's unfathomable being and limitless power. In adding exquisite instrumental coloration to the oratorio's soulful arias, Mendelssohn expresses an extraordinary spectrum of religious feeling, from dark doubt to radiant certainty. Ending with a powerful double fugue, Paulus is a beautiful, profound musical tribute to one of the founders of the Christian tradition.



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