Felix Mendelssohn - Elijah

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FELIX MENDELSSOHN - Elijah, Op. 70 - Claudia Barainsky (Soprano) - Franziska Gottwald (Alto) - Rainer Trost (Tenor) - Thomas E. Bauer (Bass) - Christoph Spering (Conductor) - Das Neue Orchester - Chorus Musicus Köln - 760623165622 - Released: November 2010 -
MDG 6021656

"The oratorio is completely outmoded" declared Richard Wagner in the 1830s. But yet, in 1846, Felix Mendelssohn premiered his new oratorio Elijah, which was to become highly regarded as one of the best and most enduring in the genre. One explanation for that might very well be as follows. The oratorio was a musical vehicle of the late Baroque and early Classical eras, and even though Mendelssohn is considered a composer of the romantic period like Schumann and Brahms, he was so much more a Classicist than a Romantic. Therefore his antiquarian tendencies, along with a sense for the dramatic, lent themselves very well to the composition of one of the best oratorios ever written. This work not only bears the influence of Bach in the choral segments and the impact of Beethoven in the orchestral writing, it also brings an added lyricism within the solo vocal passages unheard of until then.

Over time, many interpretations and recordings of this work have shown a tendency to over indulge in the dramatic aspects within the music, and to ignore the composer's many indications and markings for swift tempos and dynamic contrasts. Conductor Christoph Spering, one of the pioneers of historical performance practice, removes the many layers of patina to uncover the essence of the work, and delivers a focused account. Even though this is a dramatic work based on serious subject matter of Biblical proportions, Spering's approach reveals its Classical and Baroque roots, and as in Bach's music, gives it a steadfast momentum and sharp dynamic contrasts. The Chorus Musicus Köln and the Das Neue Orchester (The New Orchestra), both founded by Christoph Spering, have established themselves as specialists of historical performance practice, and produce a clean, focused sound tailor made for this type of music. Add to all that four accomplished and versatile singers who convey their various roles here very well, and the fact that this recording was captured 'live', and the end results are a brisk, uplifting and revelatory rendition of this important work.

Jean-Yves Duperron - November 2010