MENDELSSOHN Elijah / Terfel, Fleming 4556882

Paul Daniel and Bryn Terfel ensure that this is one of the most dramatic performances of the oratorio on disc, operatic in the best sense of the word. The young conductor, with the advantage of a period instrument orchestra and an excellent one at that, has looked anew at the score and as a consequence reveals much of the rhythmic and dynamic detail not always present in other performances . . . His accomplishment in terms of pacing and of balance is also praiseworthy, and he earns further marks for using the trio, quartet and double quartet of soloists Mendelssohn asks for in specific pieces, so as to vary the texture of the music. Terfel simply gives the most exciting and vivid account of the prophet's part yet heard. His range, in terms of vocal register and dynamics, is huge; his expression, mighty and immediate, befits a man of Elijah's temperament. As the score demands, anguish, anger and sympathy are there in full measure, displayed in exceptional definition of words, and when this Elijah calls on the Lord for the saving rain, the Almighty could hardly resist such a commanding utterance . . . he has moderated his reading just enough to perfect it . . . Fleming sings "Hear ye, Israel" with plenty of feeling . . . [Patricia Bardon's grave mezzo and eloquent phrasing are] just right for the alto solos . . . Daniel uses a different mezzo for Jezebel with equally successful results . . . For the concerted numbers Daniel has chosen voices that nicely match each other in timbre . . . In every respect the orchestral playing on the new version is exemplary . . . the new set should now, by a small measure, be the primary recommendation . . . not least because of Terfel's characterful and irresistible portrayal . . .

Nobody rivals the dramatic range of Bryn Terfel in his portrayal of the prophet, at one moment compassionate and contemplative, then suddenly seized with rage and defiance. The other singers also excel, particularly John Mark Ainsley who delivers a stunningly beautiful "If with all your hearts", while Renée Fleming brings warmth and distinction to the soprano part . . . [conductor Paul Daniel imbues] Mendelssohn's score with vigour and lyricism with the help of energetic playing from the period-instrument OAE . . . this recording makes for compelling listening.

. . . [Terfel]: Eine wahnsinnige Naturbegabung, ein Geschenk des Himmels, dieser Sänger . . .