Mendelssohn's Elijah lacks impact

The soloists and Jun Märkl MDR Radio Choir & Symphony Orchestra lack the exultancy to take Mendelssohn's Elijah to new heights

Composer: Mendelssohn
Repertoire: Elijah 
Artists: Soloists, MDR Radio Choir & Symphony Orchestra/Jun Märkl
Rating: 3/5 
Genre: Vocal 
Label: Naxos 8.572228–29 (two discs)

The Music Elijah’s popularity was such that for a while it supplanted even Handel’s Messiah as the most popular of all choral works. At the Birmingham premiere, the 2000- strong audience lost all sense of decorum, breaking with the prevailing custom regarding performances of religious works by roaring their approval. 

The Performance The solo line-up here is slightly variable, ranging from Christoph Genz’s beguilingly sensitive tenor to the Wagnerian intoning of bass Ralf Lukas. Greater clarity of texture and articulation from the choir and orchestra would also have helped give Mendelssohn’s sparkling textures an added lift, while the two big choruses – Thanks be to God and Be Not Afraid – lack impact. That said, there is a keen sense of the drama unfolding in front of one’s eyes, and an unfailingly musical quality to Jun Märkl’s direction that is enormously satisfying. 

The Verdict For Mendelssohn’s slightly cosy take on Elijah to break free of its Victorian musical moorings, a greater sense of exultancy and imperativeness is required. No recording is ideal, but Hickox remains in pole position (Chandos CHAN 8774/5, two discs). 

Want More? Mendelssohn’s other great oratorio, St Paul, is also well served by Hickox (CHAN 10516).