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Mendelssohn Elijah in Birmingham Adrian Boult Hall.

Mendelssohn’s Elijah may sound hackneyed to modern ears, but it readily appealed to Victorian audiences. And Birmingham choirs have always had a soft spot for the work, as it was their antecedents who gave the premiere in 1846.

A sense of this affection permeated much of Saturday’s performance by Birmingham Choral Union, which showed a commitment (minor fluffs aside) that vividly brought the fire-and-tempest Old Testament melodrama to life. Colin Baines certainly knows how to get the best from his singers, with brisk tempi and a tidy orchestra firmly tethered to avoid unnecessary strain on elderly voices.

Although some entries could have been more securely nailed into place most big choruses, including The Fire Descends From Heaven and Thanks be to God (taken at a splendid lick), displayed an impressive sweep; and some of the quieter ones – Cast Thy Burden, He, Watching Over Israel and a perfectly in tune Lift Thine Eyes sextet – conveyed genuine charm.

Of the many solo contributions soprano Claire Wild sang Hear ye, Israel with touching piety, mezzo Pamela Davies gave us a smooth, if rather pallid O Rest in the Lord, and tenor Robert Anthony Gardiner’s If With All Your Hearts had clarity and freshness.

But it was baritone Terence Ayebare who stole the show, with the dramatic presence and vocal shading (It is Enough was the evening’s highlight) to make Elijah a character of real emotions and tragic destiny.

Almost like opera in fact.

Rating: ****

Mar 16 2012 by David Hart.

 

Permanent link to this article: http://www.birminghamchoralunion.org.uk/mendelssohn-elijah-in-birmingham-adrian-boult-hall/