City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

Review: Mendelssohn 200, Mendelssohn's Elijah


By Barbara Bryan - Posted on 30 January 2009

4
Show Details
Venue: 
Queen's Hall
Company: 
Scottish Chamber Orchestra
Production: 
Scottish Chamber Orchestra
Performers: 
Yannick Nezet-Seguin (conductor), Lucy Crowe (soprano, The Widow), Karen Cargill (mezzo-soprano, An Angel, the Queen), Andrew Staples (tenor, Obadiah and Ahab), Jonathan Memalu (bass baritone Elijah), Libby Crabtree (soprano 11 The Youth), Anne Lewis (mezzo-soprano 11), SCO chorus, Mark Hindley (chorus master), Scottish Chamber Orchestra
Running time: 
160mins

Mendelssohn, a Christian convert, spent nine years contemplating a work based around the miracles performed by God's prophet Elijah.  When the Birmingham Festival commissioned him to write an Oratorio he finally began to write this magnificent piece that was premiered in English on 26th August, 1846.  The Times review of the day said: "Never was there a more complete triumph; never a more thorough and speedy recognition of a great work of art."  These would have been welcome words indeed for Mendelssohn who was by then terminally ill with an undiagnosed brain tumour and died prematurely just fifteen months later at the age of 38.

This performance of Elijah however, with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra and soloists, was staged as part of the bicentenary celebrations of this child prodigy. Playing to a packed house, the dramatic epic Oratorio begins with a majestic, sombre opening sung last night by the wonderful rich bass baritone voice of Jonathan Lemalu as the prophet Elijah. Indeed all the soloists had exceptional voices, and when singing in the quartets blended beautifully together.

The soprano Lucy Crowe sung the part of the Widow; the mezzo-soprano Karen Cargill an angel and the Queen and the tenor Andrew Staples, who replaced the indisposed Mark Padmore, sung the part of Obadiah and Ahab.  And the majesty of the piece, with its haunting strings and powerful brass sections, is enhanced by the chorus.

The Scottish Chamber Orchestra chorus excelled in bringing this thrilling music to life.  Under the baton of the exuberant French-Canadian conductor Yannick Nezet-Seguin, the whole performance with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, soloists and chorus was memorably enthralling.

Concert also performed at Glasgow City Halls at 7.30pm on Friday, 30 January.