Mendelssohn — Elijah (1846)

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Obedient as always to the dictates, directives, and even the whims of our august Aisymnatist, who has issued a ukase demanding more reviews of choral music, we turn once again to the archives of the Berlin Philharmonic where we find a performance of this work on May 17, 2009, conducted by the ubiquitous and versatile Seiji Ozawa, with a large number of soloists including the outstanding Nathalie Stutzmann, alto, and Matthias Goerne, bass.

The Elijah is not considered to be in the first rank with choral works like the Bach B Minor Mass, his St. Matthew Passion, Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis and Ninth Symphony, Haydn’s Creation, Handel’s Messiah, and other giants of the choral realm; but Elijah, while spotty, has its fine moments, particularly Cast thy Burden upon the Lord (sung by a quartet of angels), Open the Heavens and send us Relief, and Thanks be to God, He laveth the the thirsty Land. (Using the English titles because I know them from singing in the chorus many years ago; this performance of course is in German.) To my taste, Ozawa takes the last chorus too swiftly, i.e. faster than I’m used to, but it’s still a very winning piece. In short, a heartily recommended performance of a work you’re not likely to have much opportunity to hear live.

Thomas Lemann

 

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