Elijah, Op. 70- Mendelssohn (English-language version)
Jacqueline Delman (Soprano)
Norma Procter (Contralto)
George Maran (Tenor)
Bruce Boyce (Baritone)
Michael Cunningham (Boy Soprano)
The London Philharmonic Choir
(Chorus-Master Frederic Jackson)
The Hampstead Parish Church Boys' Choir
(Choir-Master Martin Sidwell)
The London Philharmonic Orchestra
Conducted by Josef Krips Recorded 18-24 September, 1954, issued as Decca LXT 5000-2
Download ID: 256972, 256973, 435365, 435366
(Durations: Part 1:
64'15", Part 2: 64'49")
Elijah, which was one of Mendelssohn's final compositions. The commission had come from Birmingham, in the English Midlands, together with a request for the composer to conduct at the 1846 Birmingham Festival. However, with increasingly poor health, by December of 1845 word was sent to the effect that, although he would attend the festival, he could only undertake to conduct his own works there.
Increasingly exhausted by conducting duties, Mendelssohn finally completed Elijah in July 1846, and travelled first to London on 17th August before journeying on to Birmingham, where the work received its rapturous first performance on 26th August.
"It was quite evident at the first rehearsal in London that they liked it, and liked to sing and play it; but I own that I was far from anticipating that it would acquire such fresh vigour and impetus as the performance" - Mendelssohn, in a letter to his brother, Paul
The success of the work continued in London, where following its first performance there the Prince Consort sent the composer a book of the words he had used, inscribed thus:
To the noble artist who, though encompassed by the Baal-worship of false art, by his genius and study has succeeded, like another Elijah, in faithfully preserving the worship of true art; once more habituating the ear, amid the giddy whirl of empty frivolous soun, to the pure tones of sympathetic feeling and legitimate harmony; to the great master who, by the tranquil current of his thoughts, reveals to us the gentle whisperings, as well as the mighty strife of the elements, to him is this written in grateful rememberance by - ALBERT
Mendelssohn eventually left England on 6th October 1846, arriving back in Leipzig exhausted. Just over a year later he was dead, the only other work of any significance being a string quartet written at Interlaken in the summer of 1847.
The recording presented here is of great interest, as it was one of Decca's final large-scale mono recordings before the switch in the mid-1950's to recording in stereo, even before it was possible to produce stereo LPs.
As such what you hear in this recording is mature technique, thoroughly tried, tested and understood. The difficulties which had plagued many early vinyl releases were behind them, and Decca were well into their stride; the company's full frequency range recording technology was almost a decade old, and recording tape technology had been in use for six years.
As with the final direct-to-disc shellac recordings of 1947/8, everything was pretty well optimised for excellent results, and for the restoration engineer, working from neart-mint copies, this was a dream to remaster. I hope you will enjoy it as much as I have!