Christmas Classics PERSON OF THE DAY: William Bartholomew

August 18th, 2013

On this day in 1867, William Bartholomew died. He was noted for his English translations of many of Felix Mendelssohn’s German works, including Christus, an unfinished but superb oratorio.

A chemist by trade, as well as a painter, Bartholomew decided in 1822 to exclusively devote his time to writing lyrical versions of foreign texts. Mendelssohn much admired Bartholomew and his translating skills, and together they collaborated when the German master’s works were introduced in England, among which was the 1846 premiere of Mendelssohn’s more famous oratorio Elijah.

Bartholomew was also a composer of hymns, children’s songs, and produced his own oratorio titled The Nativity. The latter may have been influenced by the lamentable early death of Mendelssohn in 1847.

Two of the more remarkable fragments of Christus, a title given posthumously by Mendelssohn’s brother, Paul, and translated by William Bartholomew, related to the Nativity of Christ. They were the tenor recitative Where is the Newborn” and the choral recitative There Shall a Star from Jacob Come Forth.”

For those who have never heard the unfinished Christus, you should treat yourself and check it out this Christmas. You will learn why Mendelssohn, knowing death was near, wanted to husband his energy as best he could to finished these beautiful and moving recitatives. Bartholomew knew firsthand the brilliance of Mendelssohn’s last opus.

Christus Oratorio  sheet music cover

Christus Oratorio
sheet music cover