Aureole etc.

Golden Age singers

Nimbus on-line

Faure songs
Charlotte de Rothschild (soprano);

  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

Some items
to consider

in the first division

extraordinary by any standards

An excellent disc

a new benchmark

summation of a lifetime’s experience.

Piano Concertos 1 and 2
Surprise Best Seller and now

A Garland for John McCabe


DIETHELM Symphonies

The best Rite of Spring in Years

BACH Magnificat

Brian Symphs 8, 21, 26

Just enjoy it!

La Mer Ticciati








Advertising on

Donate and keep us afloat


New Releases

Naxos Classical

Nimbus Podcast

Obtain 10% discount

Special offer 50% off

Musicweb sells the following labels
Acte Préalable
(THE Polish label)
Altus 10% off
Atoll 10% off
CRD 10% off
Hallé 10% off
Lyrita 10% off
Nimbus 10% off
Nimbus Alliance
Prima voce 10% off
Red Priest 10% off
Retrospective 10% off
Saydisc 10% off
Sterling 10% off

Follow us on Twitter

Subscribe to our free weekly review listing

Sample: See what you will get

Editorial Board
MusicWeb International
Founding Editor
Rob Barnett
Senior Editor
John Quinn
Seen & Heard
Editor Emeritus
   Bill Kenny
Editor in Chief
MusicWeb Webmaster
   David Barker
MusicWeb Founder
   Len Mullenger



CD: MDT AmazonUK AmazonUS
Sound Samples & Downloads

Felix MENDELSSOHN (1809-1847)
Elias (Elijah) (1846)
Ruth Ziesak (soprano)
Claudia Mahnke (mezzo)
Luise Müller (treble)
Christoph Genz (tenor)
Ralf Lukas (bass)
MDR Radio Choir
MDR Symphony Orchestra/Jun Märkl
rec. MDR-Studio am Augustusplatz, Leipzig, December 2008-January 2009. Stereo. DDD
NAXOS 8.572228-29 [66:45 + 65:53]

Experience Classicsonline

Elias is quite a tour de force, at least by Mendelssohn's standards. Musically it is one of his most diverse works, and he makes the most of every opportunity for choral counterpoint, for elegant vocal solos, for atmospheric scene-setting; the list is almost endless. On the other hand, the composer's discipline is everywhere apparent, and the finely judged proportions of the work are surely a key to its success. In fact, the oratorio tradition in the 19th century was almost as strong as in the 18th, yet only two works from it survive into the modern repertoire, and both are by Mendelssohn: this and St. Paul. To modern ears, the influence of Bach is an interesting dimension. It was written only a few years after Mendelssohn's rediscovery of the Matthew Passion, and the links between the two works are undeniable, not least in Mendelssohn's skilfully polyphonic use of the choir.

The work's continuing popularity, not least with amateurs, belies the difficulties it poses for performers. True, Mendelssohn has a knack for creating the maximum dramatic effect with the minimum of technical difficulty, but he still expects a high standard of musicianship from soloists, orchestra and choir alike. The greatest strength of this recording is that the performers all work to almost uniformly high standards. The MDR Radio Choir display a unity of intent that is all too rare among large, amateur choruses. Perhaps their numbers have been reduced to improve the ensemble, but if so, they still manage to pack a punch when needed.

Among the soloists, the most distinctive is the soprano Ruth Ziesak, who brings a sense of operatic scope to the proceedings. None of the other singers are quite as distinguished as her, but all put in fine performances. Mendelssohn often writes for the soloists as an ensemble, and the minimal vibrato of the other singers allows these movements to cohere elegantly. That said, the timbral contrast between two male soloists, the tenor Christoph Genz and the bass Ralf Lukas, is a real benefit to many of their duet recitatives. Genz has an unaffected purity of tone, while Lukas has a slightly more constricted and impassioned sound. There aren't many roles where that sort of sound production is appropriate to the bass voice, but the title role of Elijah is surely one of them.

If I have one complaint about the performance it is that it lacks urgency. Jun Märkl shapes the movements well, but the tempos are often too static and the orchestra rarely takes the music to dynamic extremes. There is so much potential drama in this music that is only occasionally realised by this performance. It is as if we are presented with a rendering of the score rather than an interpretation of the music.

The sound quality too is serviceable without ever being exceptional. For a studio recording it is surprising how distant the choir, orchestra and even the soloists sound. That makes for a very homogeneous sound, so Mendelssohn's elegant harmonies are much more in evidence than his ingenious counterpoint.

Why is this recording sung in German? Two obvious reasons spring to mind: it was written in German and it is recorded in Germany. But it was premièred in English (in Birmingham) and Naxos is no doubt planning to sell this recording around the English-speaking world. Given the label's comprehensive approach to the repertoire, their long term plan is probably to release recordings in both languages.

If they are planning ever to revisit this work, a performance on period instruments would also be welcome. What a shame to read the ophicleide part in the score and not be able to hear it. Some narrow bore trombones would also make for more interesting textures in many of the choral movements.

No point though in complaining about what this recording is not. What it is is a perfectly serviceable Elijah, with no frills in the recording nor any in the packaging. Naxos don't go in for printing librettos, but I'm surprised they didn't make an exception here as it would easily have fitted in the liner. A budget price Elijah in every sense.

Gavin Dixon

See also review by John Sheppard



































Making a Donation to MusicWeb

Writing CD reviews for MWI

About MWI
Who we are, where we have come from and how we do it.

Site Map

How to find a review

How to find articles on MusicWeb
Listed in date order

Review Indexes
   By Label
      Select a label and all reviews are listed in Catalogue order
   By Masterwork
            Links from composer names (eg Sibelius) are to resource pages with links to the review indexes for the individual works as well as other resources.

Themed Review pages

Jazz reviews


      Composer surveys
      Unique to MusicWeb -
a comprehensive listing of all LP and CD recordings of given works
Prepared by Michael Herman

The Collector’s Guide to Gramophone Company Record Labels 1898 - 1925
Howard Friedman

Book Reviews

Complete Books
We have a number of out of print complete books on-line

With Composers, Conductors, Singers, Instumentalists and others
Includes those on the Seen and Heard site


Nostalgia CD reviews

Records Of The Year
Each reviewer is given the opportunity to select the best of the releases

Monthly Best Buys
Recordings of the Month and Bargains of the Month

Arthur Butterworth Writes

An occasional column

Phil Scowcroft's Garlands
British Light Music articles

Classical blogs
A listing of Classical Music Blogs external to MusicWeb International

Reviewers Logs
What they have been listening to for pleasure



Bulletin Board

Give your opinions or seek answers

Pat and present

Helpers invited!

How Did I Miss That?

Currently suspended but there are a lot there with sound clips

Composer Resources

British Composers

British Light Music Composers

Other composers

Film Music (Archive)
Film Music on the Web (Closed in December 2006)

Programme Notes
For concert organizers

External sites
British Music Society
The BBC Proms
Orchestra Sites
Recording Companies & Retailers
Online Music
Agents & Marketing
Other links
Web News sites etc

A pot-pourri of articles

MW Listening Room
MW Office

Advice to Windows Vista users  
Site History  
What they say about us
What we say about us!
Where to get help on the Internet
CD orders By Special Request
Graphics archive
Currency Converter
Web Ring
Translation Service

Rules for potential reviewers :-)
Do Not Go Here!
April Fools

Untitled Document

Reviews from previous months
Join the mailing list and receive a hyperlinked weekly update on the discs reviewed. details
We welcome feedback on our reviews. Please use the Bulletin Board
Please paste in the first line of your comments the URL of the review to which you refer.