It does Mendelssohn no favours to compare his second symphony with Beethoven’s ninth.
Despite the concert programme’s dubious claim that here Mendelssohn really “challenged Beethoven at his own game” the only resemblance is that they both used a chorus.
The opening maestoso movement with its brass fanfare motto theme suggests mighty things to come but as a whole the work is quietly devotional not ecstatic.
Mendelssohn’s hands are clasped in prayer not punching the air in joy.
This rarely-heard work – performed here in its English guise as Hymn of Praise – brought much pleasure especially when sung with such fervour by the CBSO Chorus, under Simon Halsey’s direction - they were particularly impressive in the closing Ye Nations, offer to the Lord. Sophie and Mary Bevan, sopranos and siblings, both sang with sweetness and grace.
Benjamin Hulett (a late replacement for laryngitis-hit Robert Murray) was an impressive tenor - his We called thro’ the darkness was both strongly declaimed and elegantly phrased.
Edward Gardner conducted the symphony admirably, ensuring that during its occasionally awkward transitions the compositional seams never showed.
The overture Calm Sea and Prosperous Voyage was delightfully played by the CBSO from the brooding doldrums to its resounding homecoming.
Mendelssohn’s Two Motets were delightful as sung here by the girls of the wonderfully talented CBSO Youth Chorus accompanied on the organ by their chorus master Julian Wilkins.
The short solo and duet passages were winningly taken and the contrapuntal finale Surrexit Christus had its four choral parts crisply and cleanly delineated.