CONCERT REVIEW – Mendelssohn: Elijah

Reviewer: James Whittle

On Saturday evening York Musical Society chorus and orchestra gathered for a fine performance of Mendelssohn’s oratorio Elijah.

Singing the title role, bass Alexander Ashworth’s declamatory introduction set the bar high for a characterful performance. His was a less mocking, more forthright Elijah than some, later revealing a vulnerable side under duress from the hostile, alert chorus.

The chorus’s quick-witted entries helped keep dialogue with the soloists animated. Diction was exceptionally good too overall, especially given the Minster’s reverberant acoustic (more discordant, chromatic chords sounded the juicier for it).

The other soloists shone in their various roles, making much of the drama. Soprano Susanna Fairbairn pleaded and rejoiced colourfully as the Widow. A wider variety of dark and melancholic hues were offered by mezzo-soprano Margaret McDonald, most strikingly when portraying Queen Jezebel. Charismatic tenor Jason Darnell was a joy as Obadiah, and as the Youth who espies rain clouds from the mountain, treble Felix Kirkby sang with a pure tone from the pulpit.

A highlight of Part Two was a spellbinding surprise by members of The Ebor Singers, singing the unaccompanied Angels Trio behind the audience from the west end.

Wisely, several numbers were omitted to streamline the narrative in the closing stages of this monumental work. Mendelssohn’s final chorus doesn’t quite beat the radiance of Part One’s closing Thanks Be To God. Nevertheless, the exuberance of the performers was infectious. Conductor David Pipe commanded an attentive and well balanced orchestra at steady tempi towards a satisfactorily triumphant finish.

Reproduced by kind permission of The Press.