German conductor Jun Märkl's conception of Mendelssohn's Elijah liberates it from the realm of the "pretty"-- a well-mannered favorite of amateur Victorian choral societies -- and presents it as a brawny, emotionally volatile, sometimes raw depiction of several very odd episodes from the life of the ninth century BCE Hebrew prophet. It could be argued whether or not the dramatic extremes and the brashness of this version were exactly what the composer had in mind, but it's undeniably effective and should be of interest to fans of the oratorio. For English-speaking audiences, the fact that it is performed in the original German creates a healthy distance from the English oratorio tradition to which it has often been relegated. Märkl's Elijah is dramatically charged and is appropriately stark in its grandeur; the climactic choral sections are among the most impressive moments in the recording. As the prophet, bass Ralf Lukas doesn't have what could be described as a beautiful voice, but he has a commanding grasp of the role's dramatic range, and he makes a protagonist who is both heroic and convincingly human. Soprano Ruth Ziesak is the most impressive of the soloists, singing with clarion brilliance, but mezzo-soprano Claudia Mahnke is also very fine. Tenor Christoph Genz is usually effective, but in some of his solos his voice seems too light. The MDR Radio Choir and Symphony Orchestra are the real stars here; their vigorous and nuanced singing and playing give the performance the vitality that makes it stand out. Naxos' sound is full and warm, but sometimes at the expense of clarity and detail in the grander passages.
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AllMusic Review by Stephen Eddins
Track Listing - Disc 1
|Elias, Op. 70|
Part 1. No. 7. Double Quartet. Denn er hat seinen Engeln befohlen über dir / Recitative. Nun auch der Bach vertrocknet ist
Track Listing - Disc 2
|Elias, Op. 70|