When in 1840 the 400th anniversary of the invention of Gutenberg’s printing press was celebrated in Leipzig, Mendelssohn was commissioned to compose two works for the occasion. With Lobgezang, a daring cross between a cantata and a symphony, Mendelssohn confirmed his status as a composer in that city of culture.
The title ‘Lobgesang’, song of praise, indicates the celebratory nature of the work. Mendelssohn decided not to place Gutenberg’s life at the centre, but rather his work – his true legacy. Gutenberg’s first great printing achievement was the Bible, and Mendelssohn thus chose a number of Psalms for his grand eulogy. The instrumental opening is followed by eleven sung movements: first meditative and mystical, then growing increasingly ecstatic. Music that, like the art of book printing, can lead us out of darkness into the light.
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Mendelssohn:Lobgesang @ Flagey, 21.04.2018