First "Elijah" from 1930 (almost complete)

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First "Elijah" from 1930 (almost complete)

Post by Lance » Mon Feb 10, 2020 1:15 am

Felix Mendelssohn: ELIJAH
Divine Art 27802 (two CDs priced as one)
(Issued in 2005)

Isobel Baillie, soprano; Harold Williams, baritone;
Clara Serena, contralto; Parry Jones, tenor;
Tom Purvis, tenor; Berkeley Mason, organ
Wireless Singers, BBC National Chorus and Orchestra
Stanford Robinson, conductor

Pristine Audio/Andrew Rose, restoration engineer

If I HAD to select just one great oratorio for my desert island, it would have to be Mendelsson's ELIJAH. (Messiah would be second.) I have always loved this work and have many recordings to prove it. When I think of the "historical" ones, I always think of the 1947 recording with Sir Malcolm Sargent conducting. The first recording, however, was made in 1930 and because of the side lengths of 78-rpm discs, minor cuts had to be made. That said, you would probably not notice the minor cuts unless you followed the score.

For me, Elijah on records commenced with the Vox Box stereo recording with the Stuttgart Philharmonic Orchestra, the Boblingen Liederkranz under the direction of Bader. The recording had a superb sound, good soloists, but above all, the choral group I have ever heard in ANY of the recordings I have. One of CMG's members told me about the reissue of this on the Cantus CD label [5.00016, 2 CDs], which I promptly acquired in 2016. (I believe I spoke about the Vox recording on these boards before.)

Inasmuch as I just discovered its availability by looking into Divine Art's online catalogue, I thought, "So, what's one more Elijah on the shelves if you love a work that much?" It is hard to believe this was recorded in 1930, so good was the work of Andrew Rose/Pristine Audio (who has their own excellent label). It is as good as the early mono LP recordings, and just about anything with soprano Isobel Baillie is bound to capture your ears/heart, so lovely is her voice. [in early 1960, Baillie taught at Ithaca College just 45 minutes drive from here.] By the time she re-recorded it with Sargent in 1947, it was a much more mature voice, rich and full. I'll take both. The extensive booklet notes are supplied by Stephen Sutton (a member of CMG!).

Now, this 1930 recording may not have the full forces or chorus and orchestra you have come to expect, and you may question the tempi in some places, however some of this may be blamed on the length of making the recordings at that time. Otherwise, this remains a wonderful listening experience inasmuch as Elijah has fared very well in England since Mendelssohn wrote it.

Indeed, hard to believe we are listening to such a major work recorded now more than 90 years ago that was recorded (and now restored) so wonderfully. I'm very pleased to have it. Highly recommended to Mendelssohn or oratorio aficionados. •
Lance G. Hill
Editor-in-Chief
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When she started to play, Mr. Steinway came down and personally
rubbed his name off the piano. [Speaking about pianist &*$#@+#]

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