WHY, O LORD, DELAY FOR EVER
CHORALE: ON THY LOVE MY HEART REPOSES
LORD, MY HEART’S DEVOTION
LORD IN THANKFUL EXULTATION
In 1840, whilst he was in England for the premiere of his Lobgesang, Mendelssohn was approached by his great friend Ignaz Moscheles who told him of a wealthy composition pupil of his who was willing to pay handsomely if Mendelssohn would set to music one of his own metrical Psalm paraphrases. He also proposed to publish it in a lavish edition. The gentleman in question was the eccentric musical and literary amateur Charles Bayles Broadley. Curiously, Mendelssohn took the commission and so began the bizarre story attached to this work.
Quite frankly, the text is nothing special – in fact, it is impossible to see why Broadley thought it worthy of Mendelssohn’s consideration, except as ‘vanity’ publishing. For this edition I have tidied up some of Broadley’s inelegant or archaic phrases, since sentences like “aye rejoicing in thy love” do not sound good or mean much these days. But Mendelssohn’s music is another matter. His lovely easy melodies, betraying the composer of “Elijah” (still six years in the future), turn Broadley’s doggerel into a minor masterpiece.
Mendelssohn was originally paid for a work for alto (or mezzo-soprano) solo, choir and organ. Although Broadley reserved all rights of ownership and publication on the original, Mendelssohn was canny enough to reserve to himself the rights to a German edition. Within weeks Broadley was presenting Mendelssohn with a further payment of 10 guineas to cover the costs of orchestrating the work. It is the German versions of the work which came to be best known, since Mendelssohn, realising the quality of his composition, quickly found a publisher for it, had a German translation made, and brought it out in August 1841 as Drei Geistliche Lieder für eine Altstimme mit Chor. Later he also added a further movement in fugal style (movement 4 in this edition), which developed some lines of text plucked out of Broadley’s last verses.
However, back in England, Broadley’s grand ideas for a lavish private publication of the version with organ turned out to be on a much more modest scale He seems never to have brought out an edition with the new orchestral parts either. So whether his finances ran out or he lost interest in the project we shall never know. Anyway, all knowledge of the English original disappeared, and only the German version was given infrequent performances from the Simrock edition. We have the American musicologist David Brodbeck to thank for rediscovering Charles Bayles Broadley’s original material, and allowing us to hear this unusual work in its original, English, dress, with the additional delight of the instrumental parts. Broadley called the work an “Anthem”, and Mendelssohn finally called it “Hymne”. I prefer to call it what it undoubtedly is: Psalm 13. The middle movement, whilst entitled Chorale, sounds equally like a good old English Hymn tune. It is strange that it has not been seized by any hymn-book compilers yet!
The fourth and final movement appears in the Full Score and Vocal Score, so that the whole work can be performed together if required.
Thus there are now 3 ways of performing the work:
Movements 1 – 3, as Broadley intended, with organ accompaniment
Movements 1 – 4, with Mendelssohn’s full orchestration
Movements 1 – 4, with organ accompaniment
Orchestral parts can be hired from the Publisher for the whole work, viz:
Movements 1 – 3: 2 Flutes, 2 Oboes, 2 Clarinets, 2 Bassoons, 2 Horns, Strings.
Movement 4 requires, in addition, 2 Trumpets and Timpani
Approximate timings: Movements 1 – 3 10’ 30’’ : Movements 1 – 4 14’ 30’’
Please contact Neil Jenkins