Westminster Cathedral Choir, James O'Donnell (conductor)
Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy was born in Hamburg, the son of a Jewish banker and the grandson of Moses Mendelssohn, the philosopher. Like his father he was a convert to Christianity. By the time he was seventeen he had written twelve youthful symphonies for strings and firmly established himself with his string Octet and Midsummer Night’s Dream overture. Although he was a product of the Romantic age, his mode of expression was poetic rather than ostentatious. He leaned heavily towards the Classical tradition and was well attuned to the conservatism expected in religious music in his day. The Ave Maria is the second of Three Sacred Pieces, Op 23, for tenor voice, chorus and organ, written in 1830. With its alternations of soloist and choir and its interplay of block harmony and lively counterpoint, it makes a profound impact.