by Felix Mendelssohn
Our final performance of the season brings back a favorite from Canterbury’s repertoire. In this quintessential work of storytelling, Mendelssohn takes the craft of Bach’s choral writing and fuses it to Romantic orchestral colors and harmonies.
Premiered in England and conducted by the composer himself, Felix Bartholdy Mendelssohn’s 1846 oratorio Elijah was immediately hailed as a masterpiece. Champion of Handel’s and Bach’s oratorios, Mendelssohn created a work that combined the best of older traditions with Mendelssohn’s own compositional and artistic innovations.
Elijah is in two parts and contains the story of God’s promise to protect and preserve his people Israel if they obey his commandments. Based on Old Testament narratives from I and II Kings, the oratorio contains dramatic psychological confrontations with death and depravity and a final conclusion of security and salvation presented by choruses of triumphant angels. The Old Testament story foretells the coming of the Messiah; the oratorio, in both its story and its music, is inspired by Handel’s Messiah – to which it was often compared – even as it exemplifies lush and intense mid-nineteenth century Romanticism.