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Paulus overture
Original Title
Overture zum Oratorium Paulus
Mendelssohn-Bartholdy, Felix
Terzer, Armin
Year Arranged
Original Instrumentation
Full orchestra
Year Published
Catalogue Number
Sheet Music Format
A4, Score (20) & parts (8x2=16)
Additional Equipment
Other Instruments
Structure / Movements
One movement. Andante Con moto Allegro
Treble, bass
C, 3/4
Key signatures
4#, 1#
Horn 1: d# - c#3 Horn 2: A - f#2 Horn 3: e# - c3 Horn 4: B - f#2 Horn 5: f# - b2 Horn 6: c# - g#2 Horn 7: F# - b2 Horn 8: A - g2
Creator's Comments
Paulus (or St. Paul as it is known in English) is an oratorio that combines texts from the Old and New Testaments, and is centred, as is implied by the title, on the life and works of St. Paul. Having just been appointed conductor of the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchester, Paulus was by many contemporaries praised as Mendelssohn's finest work, and remained his only large biblical oratorio next to the Elijah, completed 10 years later and just one year before his death. Both works are greatly influenced by Bach (chorales and hymn settings), and it is this intricate contrapuntal writing that makes the overture to Paulus interesting to transcribe for horn ensemble. The overture opens with a chorale in A major, and the arrangement is in the original key (E major horn pitch). The chorale unfolds from the bottom upwards, with horns 5-8 starting the movement off, and the others joining in as the harmonies thicken. After a held tonic in bar 14, the contrapuntal development begins, reaching seven independent voices before thinning out again and leading into the 2nd section, a proper fugue (overlaid with some cadences in classical harmony). The fugue is in A minor (E minor horn pitch), giving and overall harmonic structure of major - minor - major. The counterpoint moves through a number of keys before Mendelssohn introduces rhytmic variation, namely sequenced scale patterns, a 2nd motif in the fugue that bears more resemblance to the third section, Allegro. In fact, the Allegro starts after a fermata 2/3 through the bar in the minor section, basically just continuing the previously established material in a faster tempo. Horn 7 leads back into major, at which point I double most of the lines in anticipation of the grand finale - Mendelssohn does a similar thing, and initially there are only three individual lines. This section is an overlaying of the chorale with the semiquaver (sixteenth note) figure of the 2nd half of the fugue, with the inclusion of extended harmonies (double dominant), and some high playing in horn 1 (c#3). The overture ends with a 7 bar E major (horn pitch) cadence, slighly anti-climatic perhaps after all the harmonic, rhythmic, and contrapuntal development that preceded it, but on the other hand re-assuring in the original key, and if played in the right style, quite effective. The difficulty of the arrangement lies somewhere between medium and difficult, with only certain passages in the high horns in need of advanced players. The allegro section may be taken under tempo (in fact, the tempo change could easily be ignored altogether), and the piece would still work very well. And while the four sharps in the key look menacing at first, most of the writing is in scale patterns, so finally all the E major scale practice can be put to use. This arrangement can be recommended for performing as well as teaching purposes. It contains a wide range, a key that is not "standard", individual parts that are led both in a homophonic and contrapuntal way, there are passages where tuning is essential, while others require absolute confidence in rhythm and counting. Stamina is not a problem, as there are frequent (though short) reests in al parts. While the usual hierarchy of voices is employed (two orchestral sections), every part leads at some point, and nobody is safe / excluded from making a meaningful contribution to the performance of this work.
Performance Notes