A solemn evocation of the destiny of the prophet Elias, this rich and operatic oratorio, with which Raphaël Pichon and his Ensemble are already familiar, by itself shows that Mendelssohn, in the midst of the romantic age, was able to carry the torch passed on by Handel and Bach. At the premiere, Berlioz himself was left speechless.
With his majestic oratorio Elias composed in 1846, Mendelssohn, an immense pianist, composer and conductor, took up the flame from the great baroque masters such as Bach, for whom he "resuscitated" The St. Matthew Passion some 15 years earlier. Premiered at the Birmingham music festival in England under the title Elijah, the work would later be translated into German, to become, with Paulus, the prototypical romantic oratorio. A convert to Protestantism and grandson of Moses Mendelssohn, the "Jewish Luther", Felix Mendelssohn took inspiration from the Book of Kings with the story of Elias, fierce guardian of the Hebrew faith against the pagan idolatry of the priests of Baal. Majestic, giving a preponderant place to the choir and supported by a large orchestra, the score earned the admiration of Berlioz, who spoke of its "indescribable harmonic lavishness". The constant juxtaposition of religious hieraticism and dramatic narrative is similar to opera: between fervent prayers, exalted arias, imperious recitatives and choral explosions, Mendelssohn masters like no one else the art of the contrast.
Musical director Raphaël Pichon
Elias Stéphane Degout
The widow/ An Angel Siobhan Stagg
The Queen/ An Angel Ema Nikolovska
Abdias/Achab Thomas Atkins
The Child Julie Roset
Illustration © Lorenzo Mattotti
Elias, op. 70