16. March 2007

Klangraum Krems Minoritenkirche

Elijah Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy (1809 – 1847)

Oratorio based on the words of the Old Testament, Opus 70
Graz Concert Choir & Pannonian Philharmony
Musical direction: Alois J. Hochstrasser

Elijah - Robert Holl | bass
Widow - Ellen van Lier | soprano
King, an angel- Barbara Hölzl | alto
Obadjah, Ahab - Norbert Ernst | tenor

Soloists’ quartet for ensemble
Youngju-Lee | soprano
Maren Engelhardt | alto
Markus Miesenberger | tenor
Thomas Tatzl | bass

“The applause wouldn’t come to an end” the chronicles report about the premiere performance of Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy’s oratorio “Elijah” in August 1846 in Birmingham, England. Several aria and choruses needed da capos. The performance was a great triumph for the 37-year-old and further contributed to his reputation as a master European composer. It had been exactly ten years after Mendelssohn’s first big oratorio success with “Paulus” and Schumann’s assessment right after the premiere seemed full of belief and conviction in the young man: “Like Beethoven wrote a “Christ on the Olive Mountain” and a “Missa solemnis”, we believe that like the boy Mendelssohn wrote an oratorio, the man is going to accomplish one as well.” With “Paulus” Mendelssohn had already been following the great tradition of oratorios by Händel, Bach and Haydn in a convincing manner, yet had now adopted a totally new, pioneer course with the words from the Old Testament composed by Julius Schubring: the dramatic impetus partly evokes an opera and all classical appeals which had so far prevailed in Mendelssohn’s musical romanticism appear to have vanished into nothingness.

“Of very special effect are the prominent scenes of Elijah which Mendelssohn awards a descriptive musical arrangement: the Jews’ lamentation about the dreadful drought and the missing rain, and the miracle of rain, storm and thunder in answer to Elijah’s appeal. A similar miracle is the fire falling from heaven to enflame the sacrifice on the altar proving the prophets of Baal to be wrong. Another fire miracle occurs when Elijah moves heavenward. The composition of God’s apparition is full of musical contrasts, not staged in a storm, but in a ‘silent soft breeze’.” (Alois J. Hochstrasser)

He was thinking of a kind of prophet, the composer wrote about his work, “we would need again these days: strong and eager, yet also evil, wrathful and dark, opposed to the court and folk vermin, and opposed to almost all the rest of the world, yet carried by the wings of angels”. This statement also seems to characterize his groundbreaking opus in a musical way.

Chamber singer Robert Holl as Elijah is definitely an ideal interpreter for this monumental and challenging part—on the occasion of his 60th birthday an artistic invitation for all lovers of the great oratorio.

In cooperation with

© Elias

© Elias

© Stephan Hel

© Stephan Hel