On Wednesday, August 26, 1846, Felix Mendelssohn's revered oratorio, Elijah, was premiered at the Birmingham Music Festival. The work met instant lauds, hailed by the London Times, Never was there a more complete triumph- never a more thorough and speedy recognition of a great art (Anderson). A hurried completion of the piece had left only the first part printed. The remaining parts were sung from manuscript copies, complete with crossed out corrections in different colored ink and only the vocal outline and basso continuo for solo parts (Jack Werner 11), and yet the performance was an incredible success. The concert was well publicized with good press leading up to it. The performance was at 11:30. At least eight numbers, four choruses and four arias were encored. The performance met rave reviews from musicians, conductor, and critics alike (Jack Werner 19).
[...] A History of Western Music. New York: W.W. Norton & Company Jacob, Heinrich Eduard. Felix Mendelssohn and His Time. Englewoods Cliffs: Prentice-Hall Inc Mendelssohn, Felix Elijah in Full Score. Ed. Julius Rietz. New York: Dover Publications The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians. Ed. Stanley Sadie. NY: Macmillan The New Oxford History of Music. New York: Oxford University Press Werner, Eric. Mendelssohn: A New Image of the Composer and His Age. London: Collier-Macmillan Limited Werner, Jack. Mendelssohn's A Historical and Analytical [...]
[...] Critic Chorley said this of the piece, “Elijah is not only the sacred work of our time, we dare fearlessly to assert, but it is a work our children and for our children's children' (Anderson).” Elijah is an oratorio that serves both Christianity and music with unparalleled certainty. Works Cited Anderson, Robert. “Another Elijah.” Choir & Organ November/December 1997: 16. MAS Ultra-School Edition. EBSCOHost. Lenoir Rhyne College Libraries, Hickory Sept Blunt, Wilfrid. On Wings of Song: A Biography of Felix Mendelssohn. [...]
[...] Julius Schubring, who began the libretto for Elijah in October of 1838 (Blunt 251). Already the development of Elijah had taken quite a bit of time and effort, and the writing had just begun! Other pursuits ensued, and it seems that all involved forgot about Elijah altogether for almost seven years. However, in the summer of 1845 Mendelssohn was invited to conduct the Birmingham Music Festival in August 1846. (Eric Werner 458). In addition, he was asked to compose new music for this occasion, and in his words he “again began to plough up the soil (Jack Werner It is likely that Elijah may never have been written if it had not been for this invitation. [...]
[...] The oratorio was not an unknown genre to Mendelssohn, with his successful performance of St. Paul completed years earlier, but with that he was not satisfied (Weinandt). As it was, Elijah became an oratorio that was second only to Handel's Messiah, although many critics felt the two were equals (Jack Werner xii). Berloiz even once said that Mendelssohn was Handel and a half (Blunt, quite an accomplishment against such a revered composer. The oratorio surpasses theological or musical considerations alone, but serves the function of bringing to life a Biblical drama, rising to a “lonely height” near those works of Handel and Bach (Eric Werner, 472). [...]
[...] Whether of the court or people and indeed in contrast to practically the whole world—and yet he is borne aloft as if on angels' wings (Gordon).” However, by the time of its writing, Mendelssohn showed signs of being jaded and cynical regarding the politics of Berlin, and there is a theory that this cynicism shone through to the oratorio with an Elijah who “destroys false idols in the name of truth (Gordon).” Elijah is an oratorio in two parts. In Part I the Prophet Elijah announces a drought with which God is cursing the people to punish them for their wickedness. [...]
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