David Hansell
Early Music Review
October 2012

It probably doesn't need me to say so, but despite a couple of minor misprints and the tricky-to-read orange print in the book this release is an absolutely tremendous achievement. It's easy to criticise Mendelssohn for his sugary side, but whatever doubts he expressed he really knew what he was doing when he stepped into the post-Handel oratorio tradition and produced music for which choral singers continue to be grateful. And it is the choir that is the heart of the piece and the performance. All ages, joyful, uninhibited yet unanimous, they carry all before them. Was this the best tenor section ever? Has unison singing ever been so thrilling? The starry soloists also give their best, with Simon Keenlyside a magisterial Elijah to whom future performers of the role will surely look for inspiration. The huge period instrument orchestra incorporates rasping brass and full-throated organ, but also a rich-toned and subtle string section and delicate (when required) woodwind. These vast forces are based on those used for the first performance but I bet that didn't sound as good as this. The best comes at the end where the soloists combine to form a remarkably homogenous quartet (so many Elijahs fail here) and then the chorus is let off the leash for a final flourish. They clearly knew that this moment would not come again and made the most of it. Go out, buy it, set an evening aside and prepare to be uplifted with the prophet. You'll feel that you're in his fiery chariot.