September 21, 2023

Rheinberger & Mendelssohn choral works with Netherlands Radio Choir and Benjamin Goodson

Pentatone releases Rheinberger & Mendelssohn Choral works, together the Netherlands Radio Choir and its chief conductor Benjamin Goodson, in October 2023.

Powerful Performances of Great Nineteenth-Century Choral Works

The Netherlands Radio Choir and its chief conductor Benjamin Goodson bring together choral works by Josef Rheinberger and Felix Mendelssohn, presenting some of the greatest choral compositions of the nineteenth century. This recording begins with Rheinberger’s rarely-recorded Mass in E-Flat Major and closes with the composer’s stirringly beautiful Abendlied. Four of Mendelssohn’s most expressive and original psalm settings are paired with his lesser-known Sechs Sprüche, powerful choral miniatures that reflect on key moments in the church year. These pieces are performed in a warm, intimate acoustic, allowing the words and remarkable detail in this music to be heard and relished.

The Netherlands Radio Choir, established shortly after the Second World War, is the only professional choir in the Netherlands performing the great choral-symphonic repertoire. The choir’s chief conductor, Benjamin Goodson, is a leading performer in this recording repertoire and also works with many of the other most notable choirs worldwide, including the BBC Singers, Rundfunkchor Berlin and SWR Vokalensemble. The Netherlands Radio Choir appeared on the 2018 Pentatone release Beauty Come Dancing with choral-orchestral works by Gordon Getty. Goodson makes his Pentatone debut.

This recording is very close to my heart as it marks my debut recording with the Netherlands Radio Choir as chief conductor. It features music that has been a part of my life for a very long time, as well as repertoire that was new to me.

As a child, I remember becoming captivated by certain music — whole pieces, as well as by little melodies and chord progressions. I would listen to them repeatedly, playing them again and again on the piano long before I could understand them in any technical sense or articulate why they resonated with me. Even now, many of these early musical fascinations from my youth hold a deeply personal and emotional significance. The Rheinberger Mass is one such piece, and I am thrilled to include it on this recording. I encountered it as a young boy and distinctly recall performing it as a tenor lay clerk at St Albans Cathedral, which was my first job after graduating from university. Since then, I’ve cherished it and have performed it many times.

In contrast, the Mendelssohn motets were new to me when I embarked on this recording project. Using his own beautiful melodic and harmonic language, Mendelssohn sets these texts with all the rhetorical drama of a scene from a Bach Passion, whose music he famously revered and revived. The Three Psalms (Op. 78) showcase remarkable inventiveness and variation, even within the individual pieces themselves. Yet they are also unified by a similar transformative journey — from moments of isolation, loneliness and doubt, to resolution, comfort and communion. The Sechs Sprüche (Op. 79) are musical miniatures of remarkable impact. I currently live 2km from the Berlin Cathedral, the building for which these pieces were written. While recording them, I tried to imagine what it must have been like to attend an ordinary service as a member of the congregation there in 1843 and be confronted with music of such power.

Engaging with music and participating in professional music-making is both beautiful and enriching, but it’s rarely easy. It forces you to confront yourself every day and leaves nowhere to hide. I cannot imagine a more generous and open-hearted ensemble with which to be on this journey.”

Chief Conductor Benjamin Goodson

Digital Release Date: 20 OCTOBER 2023

Released as 1 standard CD and in digital formats for streaming and high-resolution downloads.