CHORAL 8 – Mendelssohn

Elijah Taken Up in a Chariot of Fire
by Giuseppe Angeli (c. 1740)

The British choral tradition flourished under the musical influence of the Handelian oratorio and the social transformations that, driven by the industrial revolution, urbanisation brought about. The same can’t be said of the British composers of the period; native talents of the likes of Sterndale Bennett and Cipriani Potter were completely overshadowed by a series of imports from Germany, starting with Handel himself, followed by Haydn and (in terms of the oratorio tradition, at least) ending with Felix Mendelssohn.

Elijah – Mendelssohn’s second essay in oratorio (the first was St. Paul) – was given its first performance, on the 26th August, 1846 in one of Britain’s great industrial conurbations – Birmingham. It was conducted by the composer, performed in its English language version, and was a major triumph. The work depicts several events in the prophet’s life from his cursing of the Israelites with drought for their worshiping of false gods through to his ascent into heaven in a chariot of fire.

In fact I imagined Elijah as a real prophet through and through, of the kind we could really do with today: Strong, zealous and, yes, even bad-tempered, angry and brooding—in contrast to the riff-raff, whether of the court or the people, and indeed in contrast to almost the whole world—and yet borne aloft as if on angels’ wings.

Felix Mendelssohn, 1838

PART I
1:55 Introduction – So wahr der Herr, der Gott Israels lebet/As God the Lord of Israel liveth
2:52 Overture
6:27 1. Chorus – Hilf, Herr!/Help, Lord!
10:00 2. Duet with choir – Herr, höre unser Gebet!/Lord! bow thine ear to our prayer!
12:10 3. Recitative – Zerreißet eure Herzen/People, rend your hearts
12:56 4. Aria – So ihr mich von ganzem Herzen suchet/If with all your hearts
15:05 5. Chorus – Aber der Herr sieht es nicht/Yet doth the Lord see it not
19:12 6. Recitative – Elias, gehe von hinnen/
Elijah! get thee hence
20:08 7. Double quartet – Denn er hat seinen Engeln befohlen/For he shall give his angels & Recitative – Nun auch der Bach vertrocknet ist/
Now Cherith’s brook is dried up
24:13 8. Recitative, aria and duet – Was hast du mir getan/What have I to do with thee?
30:11 9. Chorus – Wohl dem, der den Herrn fürchtet/Blessed are the men who fear him
33:10 10. Recitative with choir – So wahr der Herr Zebaoth lebet/As God the Lord of Sabaoth liveth
37:20 11. Chorus – Baal erhöre uns!/Baal, we cry to thee; hear and answer us!
40:37 12. Recitative with choir – Rufet lauter! Denn er ist ja Gott!/Call him louder, for he is a god! 41:42 13. Recitative with choir – Rufet lauter! Er hört euch nicht./Call him louder! he heareth not!
44:27 14. Aria – Herr, Gott Abrahams, Isaaks und Israels/Lord God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel!
47:43 15. Quartet – Wirf dein Anliegen auf den Herrn/Cast thy burden upon the Lord
49:43 16. Recitative with choir – Der du deine Diener machst zu Geistern/
O thou, who makest thine angels spirits
52:27 17. Aria – Ist nicht des Herrn Wort wie ein Feuer/Is not his word like a fire?
54:25 18. Arioso – Weh ihnen, dass sie von mir weichen!/Woe unto them who forsake him!
57:04 19. Recitative with choir – Hilf deinem Volk, du Mann Gottes!/O man of God, help thy people!
1:02:26 20. Chorus – Dank sei dir, Gott/Thanks be to God

PART II
1:06:39 21. Aria – Höre, Israel/Hear ye, Israel!
1:12:13 22. Chorus – Fürchte dich nicht, spricht unser Gott/Be not afraid, saith God the Lord
1:16:40 23. Recitative with choir – Der Herr hat dich erhoben/The Lord hath exalted thee
1:20:25 24. Chorus – Wehe ihm, er muss sterben!/Woe to him, he shall perish
1:21:58 25. Recitative – Du Mann Gottes, laß meine Rede/Man of God, now let my words
1:24:21 26. Aria – Es ist genug, so nimm nun, Herr, meine Seele/It is enough, O Lord now take away my life
1:29:48 27. Recitative – Siehe, er schläft/
See, now he sleepeth
1:30:33 28. Trio – Hebe deine Augen auf zu den Bergen/Lift thine eyes
1:32:25 29. Chorus – Siehe, der Hüter Israels schläft noch schlummert nicht/He, watching over Israel, slumbers not
1:35:55 30. Recitative – Stehe auf, Elias, denn du hast einen großen Weg vor dir/
Arise, Elijah, for thou hast a long journey
1:37:56 31. Aria – Sei stille dem Herrn/O rest in the Lord
1:41:06 32. Chorus – Wer bis an das Ende beharrt, der wird selig./He that shall endure to the end, shall be saved.
1:43:20 33. Recitative – Herr, es wird Nacht um mich/Night falleth round me, O Lord!
1:45:10 34. Chorus – Der Herr ging vorüber/Behold! God the Lord passeth by!
1:48:44 35. Quartet with choir – Seraphim standen über ihm; Heilig ist Gott der Herr/Above him stood the Seraphim; Holy is God the Lord
1:51:35 36. Choir recitative – Gehe wiederum hinab! Ich gehe hinab/Go, return upon thy way! I go on my way
1:52:54 37. Arioso – Ja, es sollen wohl die Berge weichen/For the mountains shall depart
1:55:09 38. Chorus- Und der Prophet Elias brach hervor/Then did Elijah the prophet break forth
1:57:33 39. Aria – Dann werden die Gerechten leuchten/Then shall the righteous shine forth
1:59:46 40. Recitative – Darum ward gesendet der Prophet Elias Behold, God hath sent Elijah
2:00:46 41. Chorus – Aber einer erwacht von Mitternacht/But the Lord, from the north hath raised one & Quartet – Wohlan, alle, die ihr durstig seid/O come everyone that thirsteth
2:06:47 42. Chorus – Alsdann wird euer Licht hervorbrechen/And then shall your light break forth & Herr, unser Herrscher/Lord, our Creator


In my innocence I was going to assure everyone that I’d never heard of a staged production of Elijah, and then I discovered this:

The vocal score:


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