This new recording -sung in English- and by the same forces as the acclaimed 2011 Prom Concert- brings a thrilling 'fresh/old' look to this famous old 'war-horse' of a score.
Unlike all preceding recordings, Paul McCreesh (so well-known in the 'authentic' performance movement)and his team have faithfully returned to the practices of the early performances conducted by Mendelssohn himself, and those of the decades immediately folllowing that triumphant performance in Birmingham Town Hall in 1846.
Like the 'live' Prom concert on which this recording is based, Paul McCreesh's orchestral and choral forces number over 400.
The augmented orchestra includes the 'period' instruments which Mendelssohn himself wrote for (including the specified ophicleids and serpents) adding vivid wieght and colour, and the massed choir includes not only the Gabrieli Consort at its nucleus but numerous young singers amongst the ranks.
Admittedly, the inspiration of Mendelssohn's writing throughout this lenghty oratorio did occassionally flag, but the enthusiasm of these forces brings it all freshly alive - most often thrillingly.
Amongst the soloists, Simon Keenlyside is a committed Elijah, Sarah Connolly a malevolent Queen -and special mention must be made of the boy-treble Jonty Ward's exceptional singing of the 'weather report' which leads directly into thrilling conclusion of Part One.
For those who heard the 'live' concert broadcast on Radio 3, I can only say that this recording is far superior in it's clarity and detail, as also the balance between the orchestra and the chorus. (e.g. the 'rushing waters' of the violins in "Thanks Be To God" are now to be heard clearly amidst the tumult of brass and wind.)
Such details as impercetively dubbing-in the historically correct sounds of the Birmingham Town Hall organ show the detail and care that has been taken over this project in faithfully realizing this famous and much-loved work anew.
Mention should be made of the exceptional quality of the packaging of the discs -with full texts and translations, and numerous photographs from both the Albert Hall performance and the recording sessions immediately afterwards.
To those who think they 'know' this famous oratorio -or those seeking to investigate it for the first time, I can only say that although I already have several well-acclaimed recordings in my library, this new recording sets a completely different standard by vividly realizing Mendelssohn's imagination and sound-world anew.