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The Southeast Kansas Symphony Orchestra
Raul Munguia - Artistic Director & Conductor

2008-09 Season

Sunday, May 3rd, 2009
~ 3:00 p.m. ~
First United Methodist Church
5th & Pine

Concert program (PDF)
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Sunday, May 3rd, 2009-
Program Notes

Paulus (St. Paul) Oratorio, Op. 36

Jakob Ludwig Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy (1809-1847)

Directed by Dr. Susan Marchant

Sung in English

Saul/Paul ~~ Patrick Howle, Baritone
Soprano Recitative ~~ Kathryn Parke, Soprano
Tenor Recitative ~~ William Vance, Tenor
Soprano Arias & the Voice of God ~~
Angela Stansberry, Soprano
Alto Aria ~~ Kelly Samarzea, Contralto
Tenor Aria & Stephen ~~ Patrick O'Halloran, Tenor
Barnabas ~~ Sean Parks, Tenor
Ananias ~~ Bryan Ganer, Tenor
The False Witnesses ~~ Brandon Wade & Derek Dixon, Baritone
The Voice of Jesus ~~ PSU Women's Choir

With the Members and Guests of the
Pittsburg State University Choral Program

Part I (English)

Overture

  1. Chorus: Lord! Thou alone art God
  2. Chorale: To God on high be thanks and praise (Allein Gott in der Höh' sei Ehr')
  3. Recitative, Soprano: And the many that believed
    Duet, The False Witnesses: We verily have heard
    Recitative, Soprano: And they stirred up the people
  4. Chorus: Now this man ceaseth not
  5. Recitative, Soprano: And all that sat in the council
    Recitative, Stephen: Men, brethren, and fathers!
    Chorus: Take him away!
    Recitative, Stephen: Lo! I see the heavens opened
  6. Aria, Soprano: Jerusalem! Thou that killest the prophets
  7. Recitative, Tenor: Then they ran upon him with one accord
    Chorus: Stone him to death!
  8. Recitative, Tenor: And they stoned him
    Chorale: To Thee, O Lord, I yield my spirit (Wer nur den lieben Gott lässt walten)
  9. Recitative, Soprano: And the witnesses had laid down their clothes
  10. Chorus: Happy and blest are they who have endured
  11. Recitative, Tenor: Now Saul made havoc of the Church
    Aria, Saul: Consume them all
  12. Recitative, Alto: And he journeyed with companions
    Arioso, Alto: But the Lord is mindful of his own
  13. Recitative, Tenor and Saul: And as he journeyed
    Chorus: Saul! Why persecutest thou me?
  14. Chorus: Rise up! Arise!
  15. Chorale: Sleepers, wake! (Wachet auf! ruft uns die Stimme)
  16. Recitative, Tenor: And his companions which journeyed with him
  17. Aria, Saul: O God, have mercy upon me
  18. Recitative, Tenor and Soprano: And there was a disciple at Damascus
  19. Aria, Saul: I praise Thee, O Lord my God
    Chorus: The Lord, He is good
  20. Recitative, Soprano: And Ananias went his way
    Recitative, Ananias: Hear thou, brother Saul!
    Recitative, Soprano: And there fell from his eyes
  21. Chorus: O great is the depth of the riches

    Part II

  22. Chorus: The nations are now the Lord's
  23. Recitative, Soprano: And Paul came to the congregation
  24. Duet, Paul and Barnabas: Now we are ambassadors in the name of Christ
  25. Chorus: How lovely are the messengers
  26. Recitative, Soprano: So they, being filled with the Holy Ghost
    Arioso, Soprano: I will sing of Thy great mercies, O Lord
  27. Recitative, Tenor: But when the Jews saw the multitudes
    Chorus: Thus saith the Lord
    Recitative, Tenor: And they laid wait for Paul
  28. Chorus: Is this he?
    Chorale, Quartet and Chorus: O Thou, the true and only Light (O Jesu Christ, meins Lebens Licht)
  29. Recitative, Tenor: But Paul and Barnabas spoke freely
    Recitative, Paul: Ye were chosen first
  30. Duet, Paul and Barnabas: For so hath the Lord commanded
  31. Recitative, Soprano: And there was a man at Lystra
  32. Chorus: The gods themselves as mortals have descended
  33. Recitative, Soprano: And they called Barnabas Jupiter, and Paul, Mercurius
  34. Chorus: O be gracious, ye immortals
  35. Recitative, Tenor: Now when the Apostles heard the same
    Recitative, Paul: O wherefore do ye these things?
    Aria, Paul: For know ye not that ye are His temple?
    Chorus: But our God abideth in heaven
  36. Recitative, Soprano: Then the multitude was stirred up against them
  37. Chorus: This is Jehovah's temple
  38. Recitative, Soprano: And they all persecuted Paul on his way
  39. Aria, Tenor: Be thou faithful unto death
  40. Recitative, Soprano: And Paul sent and called the elders
    Recitative, Paul: Ye know how at all seasons I have been with you
    Recitative, Soprano: And they all wept sore and prayed
  41. Quartet and Chorus: Far be it from thy path
    Recitative, Paul: What mean ye thus to weep?
    Recitative, Tenor: And when he thus had spoken
  42. Chorus: See what love hath the Father bestowed on us
  43. Recitative, Soprano: And though he be offered upon the sacrifice of our faith
  44. Chorus: Not only unto him

Part I (German)

Overture

  1. chorus - Herr, der du bist der Gott (Lord! Thou alone art God)
  2. choral - Allein Gott in der Höh' sei Ehr' (To God on high)
  3. recitative - Die Menge der Gläubigen war ein Herz; Wir haben ihn gehört (And the many that Believed)
  4. chorus - Dieser Mensch hört nicht auf zu reden (Now this man ceaseth not)
  5. recitative & chorus - Und sie sahen auf ihn alle (And all that sat in the council)
  6. aria (S) - Jerusalem! die du tötest die Propheten (Jerusalem! Thou that killest the Prophets)
  7. recitative & chorus - Sie aber stürmten auf ihn ein; Steiniget ihn! Er lästert Gott (Then they ran upon him; Stone him to death (He blasphemes God))
  8. recitative & choral - Und sie steinigten ihn; Dir, Herr, dir will ich mich ergeben (And they Stoned him; To thee, O Lord. I yield my spirit)
  9. recitative - Und die Zeugen legten ab ihre Kleider (And the Witnesses)
  10. chorus - Siehe! wir preisen selig, die erduldet (Happy and Blest are they)
  11. recitative (T) & aria (B) - Saulus aber zerstörte die Gemeinde; Vertilge sie, Herr Zebaoth (And Saul made havock of the Church; Consume them all)
  12. recitative & arioso (Sii) - Und zog mit einer Schar; Doch der Herr vergisst der Seinen nicht (But the Lord is mindful of his own)
  13. recitative & chorus - Und als er auf dem Weg war; Saul! was verfolgst du mich? (The Conversion)
  14. chorus - Mache dich auf! Werde Licht! (Rise! Up! Arise.)
  15. choral - Wachet auf! ruft uns die Stimme (Sleepers, wake, a voice is calling)
  16. recitative - Die Männer aber, die seine Gefährten waren (And his companions)
  17. aria (B) - Gott, sei mir gnädig nach deiner Güte (O God, have Mercy)
  18. recitative - Es war aber ein Jünger zu Damaskus (Anth there was a Desciple)
  19. aria (B) & chorus - Ich danke dir, Herr, mein Gott... Der Herr wird die Tränen (I praise thee, O Lord)
  20. recitative - Und Ananias ging hin (And Ananias went his way)
  21. chorus - O welch eine Tiefe des Reichtums der Weisheit ( O great is the depth)

    Part II

  22. chorus - Der Erdkreis ist nun des Herrn (The Nations are now the Lord's)
  23. recitative - Und Paulus kam zu der Gemeinde (And Paul came to the congregation)
  24. duettino (TB) - So sind wir nun Botschafter an Christi Statt (Now we are Ambassadors)
  25. chorus - Wie lieblich sind die Boten (How lovely are the Messengers)
  26. recitative & Arioso - Und wie sie ausgesandt von dem heiligen Geist; Lasst uns singen von der Gnade des Herrn (I will sing of thy great mercies)
  27. recitative & chorus - Da aber die Juden das Volk sahen; So spricht der Herr: ich bin der Herr (But when the Jews; Thus saith the Lord; And they laid wait for Paul)
  28. chorus & choral - Ist das nicht, der zu Jerusalem; O Jesu Christe, wahres Licht (Is this he?; O Thou, the True and Only Light)
  29. recitative - Paulus aber und Barnabas sprachen (But Paul and Barnabas spake freely)
  30. duet (TB) - Denn also hat uns der Herr geboten (For so hath the Lord)
  31. recitative - Und es war ein Mann zu Lystra (And there was a man at Lystra)
  32. chorus - Die Götter sind den Menschen gleich geworden (The gods themselves)
  33. recitative - Und nannten Barnabas Jupiter (And they call Barnabas, Jupiter)
  34. chorus - Seid uns gnädig, hohe Götter (O be gracious, Ye Immortals.)
  35. recitative & chorus - Da das die Apostel hörten; Aber unser Gott ist im Himmel (Now when the Apostles; For know ye not?; But our God abideth in Heaven!)
  36. recitative - Da ward das Volk erreget wider sie (Then the Multitude)
  37. chorus - Hier ist des Herren Tempel (This is Jehovah's Temple)
  38. recitative - Und sie alle verfolgten Paulus (And they all persecuted Paul)
  39. cavatine (T) - Sei getreu bis in den Tod (Be though faithful unto death)
  40. recitative - Paulus sandte hin und liess fordern die Ältesten (And Paul sent and called the elders)
  41. chorus - Schone doch deiner selbst; Was machet ihr, dass ihr weinet (Far be it from thy path)
  42. chorus - Sehet, welch eine Liebe hat uns der Vater erzeiget (See what love)
  43. recitative - Und wenn er gleich geopfert wird (And though he be offered)
  44. chorus - Nicht aber ihm allein, sondern allen (Not only unto him)

Written In: 1835-1836
First Performed: May 22, 1836, Düsseldorf

It has often been remarked that the story of Paul of Tarsus was a natural, perhaps even a compelling, choice for Mendelssohn's first oratorio, for, in addition to the subject's dramatic possibilities, he himself was the descendant of recently converted Christians. Moses Mendelssohn, Felix's paternal grandfather, was one of the major figures of the Haskalah, the "Jewish Enlightenment" that swept through Germany at the end of the 18th century. As the "third Moses" (the second being Moses Maimonides, the medieval Spanish philosopher, and physician, and Torah scholar - with the first, of course, being the Biblical patriarch and hero of Exodus), Moses Mendelssohn was also often referred to as the "German Plato" for his influential treatise on the immortality of the soul, which was written in the style of a Platonic dialogue (Phädon oder über die Unsterblichkeit der Seele). A scholar of unusual tolerance and eloquence, he argued that all religions should be treated with respect and that anyone could discover religious truth. He also sought for ways to bring devout Jews into secular society, and his On the Civil Amelioration of the Condition of the Jews, published in 1781, played a significant role in increasing Jewish rights and freedoms. He himself was honored by Frederick the Great, King of Prussia (who bore with amused equanimity Moses' strictures upon his poetry), who in 1763 granted him the privileged status of Schutzjude (Protected Jew). Frederick was succeeded by his nephew, Friedrich Wilhelm II, who later conferred a Schutzbrief (a letter of protection) upon Moses's widow and children, and also extended a similar protection to Felix's maternal great-grandfather, Daniel Itzig, whose Jewish family thereby was entitled to "all the rights of Christian citizens."

Despite this assurance of protection, four of Moses's six children would eventually convert from Judaism, two becoming Catholic, and two Protestant (the latter including Felix's father, Abraham). One of Daniel Itzig's grandsons, Jacob Salomon, also converted to Christianity, and Jacob's daughter Lea married Abraham Mendelssohn; thus, both of Felix's parents were Christian converts within their larger Jewish families. After being baptized, the Christian Mendelssohns adopted the surname Bartholdy, to distinguish themselves from the Jewish branch of the family. (Bartholdy, incidentally, was the name of a family dairy farm.) However, although Felix was raised a Lutheran, he never denied or renounced his Jewish heritage, and styled himself thereafter as Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy, although his father had wished for him to drop the Mendelssohn entirely.

Abraham Mendelssohn was a very powerful banker in his own right, but he recognized that he would never achieve the heights attained by either Moses or Felix, commenting ruefully, "Previously I was the son of my father, now I am the father of my son!" Abraham was one of his son's most faithful champions, and Felix was no less devoted, referring to his father as "my only true friend, my instructor in art and in life," and Abraham's musical instincts were invaluable to Felix. In 1831, Mendelssohn received a commission for his first oratorio from Johann Nikolaus Schelble, director of Frankfurt's Cäcilienverein (incidentally, it was from within the ranks of this choir that Mendelssohn would meet his future wife, Cécile Jeanrenaud). Although he worked at it in a rather desultory fashion, he did not begin composing in earnest until 1834, in large part because he first devoted so much attention to the libretto, which (despite the fact that Mendelssohn made frequent adaptations) is primarily attributed to an old family friend, Pastor Julius Schubring. As the music in its turn finally began to take shape, Felix frequently played troublesome passages for his father, who, Felix marveled, could immediately identify the weaknesses that had eluded him. In March 1835, after an exchange of letters critiquing the piece, he wrote to his father, "Often I am at a loss to understand how you, who have had no technical musical training, can have such acute musical judgment." Consequently, Abraham's unexpected death in November of that year was devastating to Felix, and the oratorio took on a new significance for him as an unofficial tribute to his father.

St. Paul was first performed not by the Cäcilienverein in Frankfurt, but rather at the Lower Rhine Music Festival in Düsseldorf on May 22, 1836, because Shelble was too ill to receive the piece he had commissioned (he would die the following year). It was an unqualified triumph, described by Mendelssohn's close friend Robert Schumann as a "continuous chain of beauty" that lit the auditorium "like a kindled bonfire." Its success catapulted the 27-year-old composer to international stardom, with performances throughout Europe, Russia, and the United States, earning him particular devotion in England. St. Paul was destined to become Mendelssohn's most popular work during his lifetime (although it has subsequently been eclipsed by his later oratorio, Elijah). There were those who expressed reservations, of course - having God and Jesus represented by women's voices caused considerable comment and perplexity - while some felt that it was an inappropriate choice to include chorale settings in the concert hall. Overall, however, the reviews were glowing. Gottfried Wilhelm Fink recognized Mendelssohn's debt to his revered Bach and Handel, commenting that St. Paul had "one foot in the old period, with the other in the new, which is now; its eyes, however, look to the past, that [the past] may become new." Otto Jahn called it a "brilliant, effective conception," while Schumann further rhapsodized that it was "a jewel," "a work of the purest kind, one of peace and love," and likening the experience to "resting under the palm trees... with a blooming landscape lying before your feet." Even a young Richard Wagner, who would later spew anti-Semitic bile over Mendelssohn, Meyerbeer, and all other Jewish artists, enthusiastically proclaimed St. Paul a "touching and uplifting" masterpiece.

Because the first performance of St. Paul was planned for Pentecost Sunday, the festival had to petition the king for permission to perform. (Pentecost, or Whitsuntide, is still a major festival in the church in Germany, and Whit Monday is a national holiday.) There are obvious strong, if coincidental, parallels between Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit was sent down upon the disciples as tongues of fire, and the blindingly brilliant vision of the risen Jesus that accosted Saul. The story of the conversion on the road to Damascus is well known, found primarily in the Book of Acts and his letters to the churches he founded (St. Paul quotes from the Epistles to the Romans, to the Corinthians, and Timothy, as well as selected verses from the Old Testament and the four gospels). Saul was a Hellenistic Jew (that is, a Jew born in a foreign country and whose native language was Greek, rather than Aramaic), who traced his heritage back to the tribe of Benjamin. His father was a Roman citizen, and Saul's early life was spent in Tarsus. He became a Pharisee, and later described himself during that time as a violent persecutor of the followers of Jesus, single-mindedly determined to destroy the early Church. On a journey to Damascus, with the authority and commission of the chief priests to arrest Christians and drag them back to Jerusalem to face interrogation, imprisonment, and possible execution, Saul and his followers were overwhelmed by a blazing flash of light that knocked them to the ground. A voice spoke: "Saul, Saul why do you persecute me?" Saul groveled in the dirt, crying out, "Who are you, Lord?" The voice answered, "I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting," and instructed him to await God's instructions in Damascus. The terrified followers, who had seen the light but had not heard the disembodied voice, led Saul into Damascus, for he had been struck totally blind. After three days of fasting and prayer, Saul was visited by Ananias, who had been instructed in a heavenly vision to restore Saul's sight (not without some trepidation, as he was well aware of Saul's vicious reputation). As Ananias laid his hands on him, "something like scales" fell from Saul's eyes, and Ananias baptized him as a Christian, to be known thereafter as Paul. Once converted, Paul was as successful a proselytizer as he had been a persecutor, tramping indefatigably across great distances to spread the Gospel. (Included among his travels were visits to Cyprus, Greece, Crete, Italy, Spain, and throughout Asia Minor, which is now modern-day Turkey - a formidable feat, especially during that period.) Paul considered himself an apostle to the Gentiles, and he believed that faith in Christ was sufficient for Gentiles to achieve salvation, that they did not need to convert to Judaism, be circumcised, or keep kosher. This made him a remarkably effective evangelist, but he thereby angered many of his fellow Jews, and Paul was frequently harassed and assaulted by wrathful mobs accusing him of blasphemy. We are never told explicitly about the manner of Paul's death, but tradition holds that he was beheaded in Rome after several years of imprisonment. His preaching, tenets, and the writings he has left us have influenced modern Christian thought more than perhaps any other author.

Mendelssohn stated that he intended St. Paul to be a sermon (eine Predigt), and he made full use of the story's dramatic potential. The oratorio opens with an account of the accusations against the Apostle Stephen, who is accused of blasphemy and subversion of Mosaic Law. Stephen's refutation is hardly calculated to pour oil on troubled waters, and the mob cries out for his blood. Stephen is granted comfort through a mystical vision, when he sees the heavens open and the Son of Man enthroned in glory at the right hand of God. This deification of Jesus is the final straw for the frenzied crowd, and Stephen is dragged out and stoned, thereby becoming the first Christian martyr. It is here that we first glimpse Saul in the background, as it were, guarding the cloaks of the witnesses who had testified against Stephen and who therefore were required by law to be the first to lay hands upon the victim to kill him. Saul immediately unleashes havoc upon the church, breathing out "threatenings and slaughter," but the Lord irrevocably claims him on the road to Damascus in one devastating jolt, from which the new man will be reborn. Paul and Barnabas are commissioned to go forth and preach in the name of Christ, and now Paul is on the receiving end of the Pharisees' anger. He is in his turn denounced as a blasphemer and as a hypocrite, and therefore Paul and Barnabas begin their wanderings. When Paul heals a crippled man at Lystra, the Gentiles, however, mistake the two apostles for their pagan gods, and attempt to worship them as Jupiter and Mercury. Paul's rebuke creates an opportunity for the envious Jews to incite the Gentiles to a murderous rage, but the Lord protects Paul from the multitude, for his ministry is not finished. Soon, however, Paul announces to the church at Ephesus that the time has come for him to return to Jerusalem, realizing he will be martyred there for his faith, despite their sorrowful pleading to him to remain. But Paul recognizes that he has finished his course, and that the race will now be run by those who come after him.

Mendelssohn, who was profoundly moved by the music of J. S. Bach, uses one of the master's favorite chorales to open the overture. The symbolic relevance of Wachet auf (Sleepers, awake) cannot be missed. A beautifully calm statement of the chorale is soon interrupted by an agitated, restless fugue, through which statements of the chorale theme are interwoven, a reassurance that the turmoil will be mastered. The strong opening chorus is followed by the chorale Allein Gott in der Höh' sei Ehr' (To God on high be thanks and praise), which leads directly into the narrative of Stephen's trial and martyrdom. The tender aria Jerusalem! Thou that killest the prophets mourns over the city's obstinacy, but the plaintive warning is all to no avail, and Stephen is sacrificed to his faith. A fitting epitaph is provided by the chorale Dir, Herr, dir will ich mich ergeben (To Thee, O Lord, I yield my spirit). (This tune is perhaps more commonly known as Wer nur den lieben Gott läßt walten.) Further comfort is offered in the gentle chorus which follows, but Saul's blistering aria destroys the peace and reassurance. Saul does not yet know, however, that the Lord has already claimed him, as prophesied in the famous alto aria But the Lord is mindful of his own. From out of the searing light that captures him, Jesus calls to Saul, the shimmering, ethereal voices blending to create a sense of intangible mystery. A robust chorus urges the stricken Saul to Rise up, followed by a choral reprise of Wachet auf - but the miracle has happened, and the triumphant orchestral fanfares cannot be contained. Saul obediently awaits his fate in Damascus, where Ananias will complete the miracle, portrayed by a sweeping, exuberantly urgent orchestral passage that climaxes as the scales fall from his eyes. Part 1 concludes with a radiant chorus celebrating Paul's newfound wisdom and God's mercy.

Part 2 opens with a robust declaration that all nations now belong to the Lord. Paul and Barnabas are commissioned and sent forth as ambassadors, illustrated by one of Mendelssohn's most loved choruses, How lovely are the messengers that preach us the gospel of peace. The Pharisees respond with a martial drumbeat to this threat to their authority, denouncing Paul as a hypocrite. The venom of Is this he? is temporarily stilled with the beautiful chorale O Jesu Christe, wahres Licht (O Thou, the true and only Light), and Paul and Barnabas turn to the Gentiles with their message. At Lystra, Paul heals a man who has been crippled since birth, and the awestruck Gentiles are convinced that The Gods themselves as Mortals have descended. They approach the supposed Immortals hesitantly, framing their pleas in a delicately lilting minuet, O be gracious (the only text, incidentally, which is not taken from the Bible). Paul's exasperation is palpable, crying out that their idols are but falsehoods, and that God is not to be found within stone temples, but rather within themselves. A grand choral fugue, But our God abideth in Heaven, enlarges on this theme, punctuated by Martin Luther's mighty chorale, Wir glauben all' an einen Gott (We all believe in one God), a German translation of the Credo. This repudiation of their long-held beliefs and traditions is unacceptable to all his listeners, however, Jew and Gentile alike, and Paul is driven away. The lyrical Be thou faithful unto death provides assurance that God is ever nigh, providing strength to Paul as he prepares to leave Ephesus and face his death in Jerusalem, for he knows that the love of God is never failing. Indeed, because of Paul's tireless evangelism, the crown of righteousness will be not his alone, but bestowed on all those who heed Paul's words and bless the Lord.

- Kathryn Parke

Scored for: Soprano, Alto, Tenor, Baritone, and Bass vocal solos, chorus, 2 flutes, 2 oboes, 3 clarinets, 2 bassoons, contrabassoon, 4 horns, 2 trumpets, 3 trombones, euphonium, timpani, organ, and strings. [ 2223[1.2.cbn]-4231[serp]-tmp-org-str ]

Related Links

Jakob Ludwig Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy (1809-1847)

and...

Choral Links:

Other Links:

  • "A Rare Treat" (Pittsburg Morning Sun, web posted May 01, 2009)