Report on Mendelssohn - ELIJAH (4 March 2007) by Brian Hicks

13 Mar 2007

(To be published in The Organ)

Elijah may not be quite as familiar today as it was almost a century ago but the impressive forces gathered under Neil Jenkinsí baton in Worth Abbey quickly reminded us what a masterpiece this still is. A strong line of soloists, led by Michael George, gave the narrative a strong cutting edge though Neil Jenkinsí approach was unhurried and often introspective.

This suited the acoustic of the building which tends to reduce large sounds to a romantic soup. Intelligent placement of the musicians went a long way to mitigate this effect, with the Ardingly College Chamber Choir placed on the balcony and the Sussex Chorus Tenors right at the front of the choral force. The soloists were not quite so fortunate. At the centre of a circular building they were inclined at first to force their tone to speak into the spaces surrounding them, but soon settled to a more relaxed and lyrical approach. Lorna Anderson made a clear differentiation between the widow and the angel, as did Susan Legg, enjoying the nastier side of Jezebel. Justin Lavender gave a meltingly beautiful reading of If with all your heart while Michael George was dramatic without spoiling the musical line.

Choral singing was dynamic but the lack of staging meant that detail, particularly in louder passages, often got lost This was equally true of the London Gala Orchestra. No problem with the quality of playing but in the acoustic woodwind and string detail often vanished while brass lines rang out over-heroically. There was little Neil Jenkins could have done to alter the balance under the circumstances and the clarity he achieved was impressive under the circumstances.

Brian Hick

Please see press/ElijahMar2007-Hicks.pdf ( 0 kB PDF file)