Notes and Editorial Reviews
The ongoing restitution of this work on disc continues apace with this thrilling version, one that seriously threatens the hegemony of the above-listed performances. Rilling has recorded the piece before with his Stuttgart forces, a 1981 account not without merits but wholly superseded by this one. Above all he brings out arrestingly the drama of the piece, turning it into a well-varied, exciting quasi-opera, a far from traditional view of the oratorio and rivalling, in that respect, Sawallisch and even more Masur. The vicissitudes of the prophet's eventful life, his reaction to events, the challenge to Baal, the encounter with Jezebel have never sounded so electrifying. For that we have to thank Rilling's disciplined chorus, as biting in
diction, precise and convincing in attack, and firm in tone as Sawallisch's, as involving as Masur's. Yet they can also provide the most sensitive, ethereal tone, as in Nos. 28 and 29, trio and chorus, ''Siehe, der Huter Israels''. In general, every strand of the complex writing for chorus is made clear yet the overall effect is one of spontaneous combustion. The orchestral playing is no less arresting.
Furthermore no Elijah since Theo Adam has so unerringly or authoritatively captured his many moods than Schone. Here is the courageous man of action as he confronts Baal's followers and ironically taunts them, the sense of fiery conviction in ''Ist's nichts des Herrn Wort'', of doubt in ''Es ist genug'', and finally the wonderful Bachian serenity in ''Ja, es sollen wohl Berge weichen'', all evoked in the most positive and imaginative delivery of the text. The voice itself, a firm, expressive bass-baritone, is ideal for the role, one on which the singer has obviously lavished much time and consideration – to excellent effect. I was held by every syllable of his reading.
The same can be said for Schafer, the new soprano sensation from Germany (Salzburg's Lulu this summer, Glyndebourne's next), who brings a Silja-like conviction to all her work, nowhere more so than in ''Hore Israel''. Anyone hearing her declaim ''Weiche nicht'' would never be afraid again. The voice itself is interesting, gleaming yet not without warmth in the tone. Kallisch is almost as convincing in the mezzo solos and gives us a wonderfully malign portrayal of Jezebel. Schade is a fresh-voiced, communicative Obadiah, not quite in the Schreier class (Sawallisch) but close to it and he's another who is vivid with his words, especially so in the juniper tree recitative.
Drawbacks? Just two. The recording is slightly too reverberant, but on this occasion the added space around the voices doesn't preclude immediacy of impact. Then the booklet has an incredibly pretentious and impenetrable note plus a layout for the text that will probably confuse others as much as it did me. Until I make closer acquaintance with this version I shan't throw out the older favourites – in any case Herreweghe presents a different, more intimate view of the piece – but I suspect only the Sawallisch will withstand the newcomer's appeal. Those with that bargain version may rest satisfied; newcomers must sample the Rilling before making a decision. It really is very special.
-- Gramophone [9/1995]
Works on This Recording
Elijah, Op. 70 by Felix Mendelssohn
Cornelia Kallisch (Alto),
Michael Schade (Tenor),
Christine Schäfer (Soprano)
Stuttgart Bach Collegium,
Gächinger Kantorei Stuttgart
Written: 1846-1847; Germany
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