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Volume 28 Issue 1 | September 20 - November 8, 2022

Our 28th season in print! “And Now, Back to Live Action”; a symphonic-sized listings section, compared to last season; clubs “On the move” ; FuturesStops Festival and Nuit Blanche; “Pianistic high-wire acts”; Season announcements include full-sized choral works like Mendelssohn’s Elijah; “Icons, innovators and renegades” pulling out all the stops.

Our 28th season in print! “And Now, Back to Live Action”; a symphonic-sized listings section, compared to last season; clubs “On the move” ; FuturesStops Festival and Nuit Blanche; “Pianistic high-wire acts”; Season announcements include full-sized choral works like Mendelssohn’s Elijah; “Icons, innovators and renegades” pulling out all the stops.

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CHORAL SCENE

The unsung heroes of

MENDELSSOHN’S

ELIJAH

STEPH MARTIN

Felix Mendelssohn

by Eduard Magnus, 1846

Why do we love Mendelssohn’s Elijah? For many

conductors, performers and listeners, it is the

perfect oratorio, combining all the dramatic musical

elements required to bring this colourful story to life.

A more puzzling question is why do we love this character, Elijah?

In the oratorio’s opening scene, the cantankerous prophet bursts

into ominous incantation, pre-empting the overture with a curse.

He condemns his people to drought and famine to force their allegiance

to Jehovah, and then massacres the prophets of Baal at Kishon’s

brook to ensure his rival cult will never rise again. But unlike other

bad boy baritones (like Scarpia) or terrible tenors (like Pinkerton)

or murderous mezzos (like Clytemnestra), we have sympathy for

Elijah, thanks to librettist Julius Schubring’s careful management

of Biblically inspired text. Elijah’s fiery, public character is balanced

with his gentler, private self, with intimate scenes of tender compassion

toward a widow and her child, his humble loyalty to his people,

and his gratitude. Ultimately, in his own emotional wilderness scene,

he confronts his self-doubt and contemplates suicide. He is saved by a

group of angels who sing “Lift thine eyes to the mountains.”

Mendelssohn had a deep understanding of the power of oratorio,

having revived, rehearsed and conducted J.S. Bach’s Saint Matthew

Passion in 1829 as a 20-year-old in Berlin. Many of Elijah’s arias endure

as staples of the solo repertoire with their timeless, memorable melodies

and effective text setting. “O rest in the Lord” and “For the mountains

shall depart” have the unpretentious air of popular song, while “Then

shall the righteous shine forth” and “Hear ye, Israel” have the weight

of Handelian opera. The supporting solo roles are also meaty, requiring

depth of expression from the entire ensemble, with three of the four soloists

playing multiple characters. The tenor must toggle between Elijah’s

right-hand man, Obadiah, and his archenemy, Ahab, granting the tenor

some wonderful tunes like “If with all your hearts ye truly seek me.” The

mezzo portrays both the envious Jezebel and the graceful Angel. Perhaps

the soprano has the most glorious music, with arias that were intended to

be sung by the famous “Swedish Nightingale” Jenny Lind. Although Lind

was unable to sing the premiere, letters between Mendelssohn and Lind

survive, as he shared his struggle to write just the right notes for her.

The chorus, of course, is the big attraction. This robust assembly

of enthusiastic singers devote many volunteer hours to intensive

rehearsals as a group. They enliven Mendelssohn’s highly charged

depiction of different groups of characters: starving citizens pleading

for pity, enraged Baal worshippers competing for victory, astounded

observers rejoicing at Elijah’s miraculous ascent to heaven in a fiery

JOIN US FOR

OUR...

2022-23 Season

CARMINA BURANA/

TUBULAR BELLS

LET US ALL BE MERRY

VESPERS

NÎPÎY’S SONGWALKS

www.amadeuschoir.com

Oct. 29, 2022

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16 | September 20 - November 8, 2022 thewholenote.com

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