Mendelssohn's Elijah at the Royal Festival Hall
7th December 2004
Elijah is a far more difficult work to bring off than its popularity might indicate. Ross Pople's direction of the London Festival Orchestra with the Philharmonia Chorus and Vivamus simply did not come up to the sum of its very impressive parts. With Willard White as Elijah it should have been a thrilling evening but his dynamic authority was part of the problem. By comparison the other forces seemed to lack impact. It may have been well sung but there was no fire in its belly.
The Chorus, with the exception of occasional late entries, were in secure voice but the stolid tempi made for too heavy an approach. Mendelssohn should dance and sparkle, whereas too much of this sounded worthy but dull. Orchestral detail was similarly marred by a rather pedantic accuracy at the expense of enthusiasm.
Joseph Nolan used the RFH organ to excellent effect and proved one of the saving graces of the evening. Anthony Dean Griffey has an heroic tenor voice but his diction was difficult and un-idiomatic. Willard White was as incisive and musically splendid as ever, but seemed to be singing in a totally different performance from that around him. I would love to hear him sing it in Birmingham with the CBSO and Sakari Oramo!!
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