The printing press was invented by German inventor Johannes Gutenberg in 1440. For the first time, men could mass produce the written word. No longer were all books and Bibles tediously copied by the hands of monks and scribes. Knowledge and education spread like a virus across the world. Henry David Thoreau said “Before printing was discovered, a century was equal to a thousand years.” Since it’s invention , technology has snowballed as we progress more and more rapidly.
400 years later in 1840, German composer Felix Mendelssohn wrote Lobgesang or Hymn of Praise in commemoration of Gutenberg’s invention that changed the world forever. Mendelssohn was one of the most well known composers in the Western world at the time. He was living in Leipzig conducting the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra and doing his best to improve the musical culture of the city. He sparked renewed interest in composers such as Franz Schubert and Bach. That same year Friedrich Wilhelm IV took the throne of Prussia and sought out Mendelssohn to make similar musical reforms in Berlin, which Mendelssohn did when his obligations in Leipzig allowed.
Mendelssohn saw the invention of printing as a triumph of the human spirit. He also saw it as a religious victory and so turned to the Bible for the choral passages of his cantata symphony. It was first performed at St. Thomas’s Church in Leipzig in 1840 and was also performed in English at the Birmingham Music Festival. Although written after most of his other symphonies, it would be published as his Second.