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elijah.jpgMendelssohn's oratorio Elijah depicts events in the life of the Biblical prophet Elijah, taken from the books 1 Kings and 2 Kings of the Old Testament.  The piece was composed in the spirit of Mendelssohn's Baroque predecessors Bach and Handel, whose music Mendelssohn loved. In 1829 Mendelssohn had organized the first performance of Bach's St Matthew Passion since the composer's death and was instrumental in bringing this and other Bach works to widespread popularity. By contrast, Handel's oratorios never went out of fashion in England. Mendelssohn prepared a scholarly edition of some of Handel's oratorios for publication in London. Elijah is modelled on the oratorios of these two Baroque masters; however, in its lyricism and use of orchestral and choral colour the style clearly reflects Mendelssohn's own genius as an early Romantic composer.

The work is scored for four vocal soloists (bass-baritone, tenor, alto, soprano), full symphony orchestra including trombones, ophicleide, organ, and a large chorus singing usually in four, but occasionally eight or three (women only) parts.

Mendelssohn uses these Biblical episodes relating to Elijah to produce intensely dramatic scenes. These were doubtless well fitted to the taste of Mendelssohn's time, and a Victorian sentimentality also seems detectable in places. Among the episodes are the resurrection of a dead youth, the bringing of rain to parched Israel through Elijah's prayers and the bodily ascension of Elijah on a fiery chariot into heaven. Perhaps the most dramatic episode is the contest of the gods, in which Jehovah consumes an offered sacrifice in a column of fire after a failed sequence of frantic prayers by the prophets of the god Baal.

Elijah was popular at its premiere and has been frequently performed, particularly in English-speaking countries, ever since. It is a particular favourite of amateur choral societies. Its melodrama, easy appeal and stirring choruses have provided the basis for countless successful performances.

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  • Elijah - And then shall your light break forth (Chorus)

  • Elijah - As God the Lord of Israel liveth

  • Elijah - Help, Lord! (Chorus)

  • Elijah - Ye people, rend your hearts (Recitative & Air)

  • Elijah - Yet doth the Lord see it not (Chorus)

  • Elijah - For He shall give His angels charge

  • Elijah - What have I to do with thee, O man of God?

  • Elijah - As God the Lord of Sabaoth liveth

  • Elijah - Call him louder! / Hear our cry

  • Elijah - Lord God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel

  • Elijah - Cast thy burden upon the Lord

  • Elijah - The fire descends from heaven

  • Elijah - Woe unto them that forsake me

  • Elijah - Help! Open the heavens and send us relief!

  • Elijah - Be not afraid, saith God the Lord (Chorus)

  • Elijah - The Lord hath exalted thee

  • Elijah - Man of God, now let my words be precious

  • Elijah - It is enough! O Lord, now take away my life

  • Elijah - Lift thine eyes to the mountains

  • Elijah - He, watching over Israel (Chorus)

  • Elijah - Arise, Elijah O Lord, I have laboured in vain

  • Elijah - He that shall endure to the end (Chorus)

  • Elijah - Behold! God the Lord passed by! (Chorus)

  • Elijah - Above Him stood the Seraphim

  • Elijah - Then did Elijah the prophet break forth

  • Elijah - Then shall the righteous shine forth

  • Elijah - Behold, God hath sent Elijah the prophet

  • Elijah - But the Lord, from the north has raised one