Composers Datebook®

with host John Birge

Monday, August 26

Mendelssohn and Glass for chorus

Synopsis

On today's date in 1846, Felix Mendelssohn's oratorio "Elijah" was performed for the first time at a choral festival in Birmingham, England.

Mendelssohn had visited England a number of times, and contemporary English audiences took both Mendelssohn and his music very much to heart. Mendelssohn himself conducted the Birmingham premiere of "Elijah," which was so well received that no fewer than eight numbers from the new work had to be encored. In fact, Mendelssohn's "Elijah" went on to become one of the best-loved and most-often performed choral works written in the 19th century.

Like many of Handel's 18th century oratorios, the story of "Elijah" came from the first books of the Bible — texts sacred to both the Jewish and Christian traditions.

In August of the year 1999, a new choral symphony was premiered at the Salzburg Music Festival in Austria, whose text was drawn from a number of the world's great sacred books, including the Book of Genesis from the Hebrew Bible alongside texts from the Sanskrit "Rig Veda," the Arabic "Koran," and texts from the Persian, Asian, and African sacred traditions. This work was the Fifth Symphony of the American composer Philip Glass, commissioned and conceived as a millennium celebration for the Salzburg Festival.

"Besides being a compendium of reflection on the process of global transformation and evolution," said Glass, "I hope that the work served as a strong and positive celebration of the millennium year."

Music Played in Today's Program

Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847) Elijah Overture Gürzenich Orchestra and Cologne Philharmonic; James Conlon, cond. EMI Classics 56475

Philip Glass (b. 1937) Dedication of Merit, fr Symphony No. 5 Morgan State University Choir; Vienna Radio Symphony; Dennis Russell Davies, cond. Nonesuch 79618

Additional Information

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