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Mendelssohn: Elijah (Sung in English)

4.7 out of 5 stars 32 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Mendelssohn: Elijah (Sung in English)
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Product Details

  • Orchestra: Atlanta Symphony Orchestra & Chorus
  • Conductor: Robert Shaw
  • Composer: Mendelssohn
  • Audio CD (July 9, 2006)
  • Number of Discs: 2
  • Label: Telarc
  • ASIN: B000003D0S
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #75,868 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Audio CD
Having sung in this oratorio many times (both the contralto, and the soprano solo parts) I was very familiar with the work. What hit me first in this recording was the WORDS were not the same as those I had sung so many times. It was sort of a jolt. Instantly, that made me wonder what was going on, after all, didn't Mendelssohn write this oratorio in English. Well, he did, but it was an English translation of the German libretto which came from the German translation of the Bible. We were all used to those words, and they have taken on special meaning. There have even been recordings of the past that gave the scriptural cross references to those lines. Well, what has happened here is the conductor and others have actually gone back to those scriptural references and made sure the words sung are those found in our King James Version of the Bible.
The changes in this text are not that great, but they are noticeable. Do I like them? Well, yes, but I have to admit while listening to the recording my mind always trails back to the familiar words.
There are a few things different about this recording than most. Firstly, there are not only four soloists, but nine of them. To some, with our tradition of having only four soloist, that may seem odd. It is not at odds with the original performance. In this oratorio, like many by Bach, there are soloists who are simple commentators, and some who are characters. We never had that distinction in other recordings. It is refreshing to hear it. Thus, we hear very different voices intone the "mother" and those who are just singing commentary (the first duet in the oratoria).
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By A Customer on January 4, 2004
Format: Audio CD
Robert Shaw certainly is the choral master and this powerful story is well "acted" by soloists and chorus. That said, I don't understand why Shaw changed the words in so many places. He wasn't updating King James English (i.e., the verbs still end in "eth"); there's a bit of generic "they" instead of "men" but that isn't consistent. "Baal, we cry to thee" becomes "Ba-al, answer us." "Draw near" becomes "O come." In some places it just loses the poetry and becomes flat prose - for no obvious reason. Or he substitutes another verse of Scripture! The cd notes include nothing from Shaw himself so it's a mystery. I sang along with my old score and, frankly, some of his changes don't flow nearly as well as the older versions -- or maybe I'm just being picky!
But that isn't a reason to pass up this recording and I'm glad I bought it. Elijah is a star of the choral repertoire and this performance is very well done. Put away your old score and enjoy.
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Format: Audio CD
Growing up, my family played an LP of Elijah almost every week. As I grew up, I discovered what an excellent recording it was. When I went searching for my own copy a few years ago on CD, I bet on the conducting of Robert Shaw. I have never regretted the purchase, and have never grown tired of the recording. The singing is excellent, and the conducting superb. This is my favorite classical cd in my collection, and I've even bought a copy for my Mother!
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Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
to the popular taste, Oratorios are as beloved in England as NASCAR in America, with a similar assault on the ears. Mendelssohn wrote elijah as part of an invitation in 1845 to conduct the Birmingham Festival, one of those orgies of Victorian rectitude that was all the rage among choruses. He died soon after finishing a later revision in 1847, and the work survives as Elias in German or Elijah in English (the words were originally set to the Lutheran Bible). Choral orgies are fewer in England today, but Mendelssohn's oratorio remains evergreen.

But not in the US. and this 1994 recording from Atlanta more or less holds the field. It boasts a great quartet of singers, with a sonorous Thomas Hampson taking the title role, along with Barbara Bonney, Florence Quivar, and Jerry Hadley. Rival recordings are more exciting - Robert Shaw, as usual, is rather tame and awkward - but only the old Fruhbeck de Burgos reading on EMI has an equal lineup of singers (it's also in English, despite the presence of Fischer-Dieskau as the prophet). In full cry the excellent Atlanta Sym. Chorus sounds a bit woolly, but clear diction is more the exception than the rule in oratorios on disc (and in the concert hall).

I don't know if Hampson has made a specialty of this role - I doubt it - but he isn't as exciting as Bryn Terfel on Decca or, best of all, Thomas Quasthoff, who unfortunately never recorded it. Victorian religiosity has passed from the face of the earth, and it's hard for any but the most traditional and committed performers to sound right in such a high-minded oratorio. We're lucky Mendelssohn chose elijah when one of his other contenders was Og of Basham. that would have been a thrill and a half. Shaw is just too mild-mannered, leaving his rivals, especially Fruhbeck and Paul Daniel on Decca, in the lead.
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Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
So I sang in Elijah a few years back, when I was loading up my mp3 player I downloaded a few pieces I particularly liked. But we didn't sing the Robert Shaw version, and that's what I downloaded, so I had to get used to the different words. One piece in particular was about to drive me completely nuts. "Blessed are all they that fear him, they ____? I could not figure it out, couldn't find the words anywhere. So in desperation I bought the CDs with the insert. In case anyone else is in the same fix, it's "...they who delight to do (his) will." As far as other word changes, I don't have a big issue with them, just took some getting used to, some I think work better than the original, others not really, but whatever.
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