Our Autumn Concert will feature Mendelssohn’s oratorio, Elijah. It is a dramatic piece which tells a story. Commissioned by the Birmingham Festival, it premiered in 1846 with Mendelssohn, himself conducting. It must have been impressive – he had an orchestra of 125, and a choir of 271! It was a great success.
The narrative follows the account of the prophet, Elijah, which is found in the Book of Kings, together with texts from the psalms. Though the libretto was originally written in German, Mendelssohn had it translated immediately into English, and it was the English version that was performed first.
We follow Elijah as he both restores the child of a widow back to life and then denounces King Ahab and his Queen Jezebel for abandoning the God of Israel. They have adopted the gods of the Canaanites, especially their chief god, Baal. The land is suffering from a drought. Elijah and the priests of Baal vie to bring the rain, accompanied by impassioned cries from the people. Later, Elijah is driven into the desert by Jezebel, but returns inspired to continue his work as a prophet. The oratorio ends with Elijah ascending to heaven in a fiery chariot – an event which is then linked to the coming of the Messiah.
Drama, music – this is going to be an exciting concert.
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