Events / Events Outside Tokyo

'Paulus' to mark Mendelssohn bicentennial

by Tai Kawabata

To mark the bicentennial of the birth of German composer Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy (1809-1847), two choral groups and two instrumental groups based in Tokyo will present “Paulus (St. Paul),” the first of the composer’s oratorios.

“Paulus,” which Mendelssohn started composing in 1834 and finished in early 1836, is a masterpiece rich in both chorals and solos.

Mendelssohn was appointed as a conductor in Duesseldorf, Germany, in 1833. From 1835 to 1837, he saw great success serving as the conductor of the renowned Gewanthaus Orchestra in Leipzig. “Paulus” was first performed on May 22, 1836, at a music festival in Duesseldorf and it was well received.

Although the piece was popular while Mendelssohn was alive, it is rarely performed in its entirety these days.

The two-part oratorio is a story of the conversion and missionary work of St. Paul, using passages from both the Old and New Testaments of the Bible.

The piece contains heavy influences from Johann Sebastian Bach and George Frideric Handel. In fact, it was Mendelssohn who revived interest in Bach’s music in 1829 by conducting the first performance of “Mattauspassion (St. Matthew’s Passion)” since Bach’s death in 1750.

Choral groups Heinrich-Schutz-Chor Tokyo and Mendelssohn-Chor, and instrumental groups Ubiquitous Bach and Sinfonia Musica Poetica will perform “Paulus” under the baton of Taro Tanno. Yoko Seto will serve as concert mistress.

The cast includes Yumiko Tanno, a soprano and leader of the choral groups, as a narrator; Chiyuki Urano, a baritone, as Paulus; Yutaka Oikawa, a tenor, as a narrator and Yoshinori Maki, a tenor, as Stephanus and Barnabas.

“Paulus” will be performed from 6:30 p.m. on Oct. 2 at Tokyo Cathedral in Sekiguchi, Bunkyo Ward, Tokyo. Tickets cost ¥4,000-¥5,000; ¥2,500 for students. For more information, call 042-394-0543 or visit

Coronavirus banner