Mendelssohn: Elijah

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COMPOSERS: Mendelssohn
LABELS: Decca
WORKS: Elijah
PERFORMER: Bryn Terfel (baritone), Renée Fleming (soprano), Patricia Bardon (contralto), John Mark Ainsley (tenor)Edinburgh Festival Chorus, Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment/Paul Daniel
CATALOGUE NO: 455 688-2
‘I imagined Elijah,’ wrote Mendelssohn, ‘as a real prophet through and through, of the kind we could really do with today: strong, zealous and, yes, even bad-tempered, angry and brooding… yet borne aloft as if on angels’ wings.’ Here is an impressively dynamic Elijah, stripped of Victorian/Edwardian sanctimoniousness and sentimentality. Closer in tempo to Hickox (Chandos) than Frühbeck de Burgos (EMI), Daniel pointedly underlines the originality and energy of the music (Part 2 in particular), making no apology for the warts, the Baroque derivatives, the contrived links or the almost abrupt closing Amen. That stylistically the old and the new of Mendelssohn’s Germany were the seed-bed of this work, that its subject matter was conceived theatrically, is something hekeenly receptive to. Resisting big-band temptations, his scaled-down orchestra (cf Marriner and Herreweghe) usefully lets air and clarity into the texture. But, like the Edinburgh Festival Chorus (as robust or refined as need be), there’s nothing reticent about the OAE. The bass end is well supported, and the organ-reinforced climaxes have splendid gravity. Bryn Terfel makes a finely resonant Old Testament prophet, occasionally over-ardent and hard-edged in his dramatic delivery, perhaps, yet always dedicated. Matthew Munro (the Boy) offers a unique kind of vocal beauty. Contrary to English custom, the quartets and double-quartets are realised soloistically rather than chorally – as the composer intended. Ates Orga

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