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CD Review

Felix Mendelssohn

Elijah, Op. 70

Oratorio on Words of the Old Testament
  • Claudia Barainsky, soprano
  • Franziska Gottwald, alto
  • Rainer Trost, tenor
  • Thomas E. Bauer, bass
Chorus Musicus Köln
Der Neue Orchester/Christoph Spering
Dabringhaus & Grimm MDG6021656-2 123m 2CDs
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This is a welcome new recording of Mendelssohn's greatest oratorio with the German forces all on top form playing in "home" territory. Spering sets a swift and brisk tempo throughout the work although he does tend to linger over the more reflective pieces. Still from the expansive Overture right up to the final chorus, the listener is deeply engaged in this fabulous work which shows the divine part of Mendelssohn's biblical inspiration.

Comparisons are quite extensive and I for one can only warm to Jesús López-Cobos' account (now available in a Mendelssohn Edition box set on Warner) or a nostalgic trip back to Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos whose EMI recording (on tape!) was my first discovery of this great work. Sill although Sparing's team of soloists is rather unknown, at least to me, they aquit themselves quite superbly especially Barainsky and Trost who can only be termed as real discoveries.

As usual MD&G provides ample notes, an excellently balanced recording and the complete text which adds to the allure of the set. One can only hope for more choral works by Mendelssohn from this source, especially "Paulus" or the Psalms as well as the cantata, "Die Erste Walpurgisches Nacht" – the latter is currently available in Peter Maag's brilliant version on Arts (another enterprising German label) but a new digital and if possible SACD recording would do quite nicely! In the meantime, this Elijah comes heartily recommended.

Copyright © 2010, Gerald Fenech.