One of the last works of German composer Felix Mendelssohn (1809–1847), the oratorio Elijah was first performed at England's Birmingham Festival in August 1846. Elated by the audience's response, Mendelssohn wrote jubilantly to his brother: "Not less than four choruses and four airs were encored." Audiences still respond enthusiastically to this splendid oratorio. A century and a half later, Elijah is one of the most frequently performed of all choral works, a favorite of audiences everywhere.
In the Old Testament, the story is told of how the Prophet Elijah vindicates the religion of the Israelites against the nature-worship of Baal. Mendelssohn imagined Elijah as "strong, zealous and, yes, even bad-tempered, angry and brooding…yet borne aloft as if on angels' wings." His conception of Elijah comes immediately and vividly to life in an inspired series of solo and choral passages filled with compelling drama and rich musical symbolism.
Elijah is reprinted here from the definitive German edition, with the text in both German and English.