- Elias (Elijah), oratorio, Op. 70
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Mendelssohn: Elijah based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Robert Shaw's account of Mendelssohn's ever-popular Elijah is one of the finest performances of this work on CD, this despite stiff competi- tion fron past recordings such as those by Burgos, Marriner and Sawal- lisch (in German). First and foremost, Elijah is a choral work, and here Shaw equals, if not surpasses all his competition. He is a choral conductor par excel- lence and his Atlanta chorus does everything Shaw asks for. Witness, for example the fervency of the opening chorus "Help Lord", the mani- acal Baal choruses, and the triumphant closing chorus which ends the this long work in a blaze of glory. Then there are the introspective choruses such as the popular "He watching Over Israel" all done with the artistry and full-bodied tone this ensemble is famous for. The orchestra is in equally fine form and both supports the chorus and soloists perfectly and blazes forth when necessary. The sound quality and balance is superb throughout, giving a transparency in this chall- enging work where nothing is lost to the ear. That said, I would have wanted more prominence in the strings in the thrilling closing chorus of Part One, "Thanks Be to God" where the strings vividly illustrate the chorus' words "The waters gather, they rush along". Shaw commits an interpretive blunder when, after an urgent pacing of the overture, he pulls back the tempo for the opening chorus "Help, Lord". The end of the overture and this chorus share the same musical material in the orchestral parts and therefore both should be at the same exact tempo and thus underscore the urgency of the text. Given the accomplishment of this performance as a whole this may sound like a quibble, but vi- sualize this if you have a score and you will see what I mean. The soloists on this recording are arguably the finest solo team ever assembled for a recording of Elijah. In the title role, Thomas Hampson is the best I have heard him, acquitting himself with great musicality and sensitivity to the role without hamming it up as this role is prone to do. Listen to his account of the aria "Is Not His Word Like a Fire" - breathtaking! On paper, Barbara Bonney may seem lightweight in the soprano role, especially her first apperance, the duet with Elijah - but she shows she is more than up to the task, sing- ing with both ferocity and tenderness here and throughout the entire work - indeed Bonney's account of the Act Two aria "Hear ye, Israel" is touching in the extreme. John Aler's tenor is firm and well-focused and he also gives solid accounts of his parts, but I wished for just a bit more involvment in his great aria "If With All Your Hearts" but he is fine nonetheless. Marietta Simpson is equally fine-voiced in her selec- tions, culminating in a heartfelt "O Rest In the Lord". One aspect of this recording which may be an irritant to some is the "updated" translation used in this account co-written by Robert Shaw and Alice Parker. The text deviates from the familiar in many places and will confuse anyone who is singing along, at least initially. For ex- ample, the concluding chorus of Part One - "Thanks Be To God, Who Revi- veth the Thirsty Land (Shaw) versus "Laveth the Thirsty Land". I, per- sonally got used to it and hope it does not detract you from enjoying this inpirational performance. So...go out and buy it now!