Never was there a more complete triumph', wrote The Times after the premiere of Mendelssohn's Elijah. The performance, conducted by the composer at the 1846 Birmingham Music Festival, marked the beginning of the life of Elijah as one of the best-loved choral works in the repertoire, a status it still holds.
A grand oratorio in two parts, Elijah is very much composed in the spirit of Mendelssohn's baroque predecessors, combining the dramatic sweep of Handel with episodes of sublime meditation such as are found in Bach. It tells the story of the stern Old Testament prophet Elijah who preached against the idol worship of the Israelite people. Mendelssohn adapted the Biblical texts to produce intensely dramatic scenes depicting, for example, the resurrection of a dead youth, a contest of the gods, and Elijah's ascension into heaven on a fiery chariot. This recording, made in April 1989, presents an all-star cast with Willard White in the title role and Rosalind Plowright, Linda Finnie, Arthur Davies, and Jeremy Budd singing the various supporting parts. Conducting the London Symphony Orchestra and Chorus is the late Richard Hickox, a musician who built an immense reputation for his masterful performances of choral music during his career. This release is a part of the ongoing Richard Hickox Legacy series.