Oratorio’s “Elijah”

H.L. Mencken

Baltimore Morning Herald/April 28, 1899

Successful Performance of Mendelssohn’s Work Under Director Pache’s Baton.

Artistically, and from the standpoint of the box office, the Baltimore Oratorio Society’s rendition of Mendelssohn’s “Elijah” last night at Music Hall was a success such as seldom rewards the efforts of a Baltimore musical organization.

Long before S.15 the foyer was crowded with ticket-buyers and those who had secured seats in advance, but were unable to pass through the crowded entrances. The size of the audience and its representative character formed objective rebuttals of the often-denied, but still often-advanced assertion, that Baltimore is a city in which good music is not appreciated.

Under the leadership of Joseph Pache, the work of the chorus and orchestra was very encouraging to the friends of the society and to all persons interested in the development of musical taste in this city.

It is apparent that Mr. Pache is a respecter of tradition, and, to a certain extent, a believer in conservatism, but the singing and playing of the chorus and orchestra bore the mark of his individuality and his ability throughout. In the joyous, exultant chorus at the end of Part I.—“Thanks be to God!”—the excellence of the local singers’ work was strikingly exhibited.

The reception accorded Mr. Davis, the basso soloist, almost amounted to an ovation. His magnificent voice was heard to great advantage, and its deep, rich resonance and power, as exhibited in the various recitations of Elijah, brought forth spontaneous and flattering applause. The members of the chorus and orchestra joined with the audience in paying tribute to the soloist. Mr. Davis’ singing is particularly notable because of his histrionic ability and the dramatic fire and fervor of his interpretation. The excellence of his work in oratorio, though due largely, of course, to natural qualifications, is the result, nevertheless, to a great extent, of hard and unremitting effort.

For 15 years he studied technique before once appearing in public, but when at last he did so his success was immediate and unmistakable. He made his debut in 1890 as the Herald in “Lohengrin” at the Drury Lane Theatre, London, and since then has sung at festivals in Cincinnati, Springfield, Albany, New Bedford, Indianapolis and Worcester.

Mrs. Kileski Bradbury, soprano; Mrs. Anna Taylor Jones, alto, and Mr. Nicholas Sebastian, tenor, were also very successful in the rendition of their respective parts. Mr. Sebastian’s singing of the recitative and air, “If With All Your Hearts Ye Truly Seek Me,” seemed to please the audience very much, and at its conclusion the singer was liberally applauded.

In the recitative of the widow, “what Haye I to Do With Tee, O Man of God?” Mrs. Bradbury’s fine soprano voice was particularly effective, but perhaps the number which showed its compass and quality more plainly than any other was the recitative and chorus at the end of Part I., beginning with the song of Obadiah, “O Man of God, Help Thy People!” In the duet and chorus. “Lord, Bow Down Thine Ear to Our Prayer,” the voices of Mrs. Bradbury and Mr. Jones were blended beautifully, and in the trio in Part II,. “Lift Thine Eyes to the Mountains, Whence Cometh Help,” they were again heard together, although this time in union with another voice. In the three quartettes, “Cast Thy Burden Upon the Lord,” “Holy, Holy, Holy” and “O. Come Everyone That Thirsteth.” the voices of the four soloists were heard without chorus, and their purity and pliability were very apparent.

J. Wright Nichols was the organist and the second soprano and alto parts were sung by Mrs. Charles Morton and Mrs. James Smyser.

“Elijah” was first performed August 26. 1846, at the Birmingham, England, Festival, under the personal direction of the composer, Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy. The characters represented on Obadiah and Ahab, tenors; the Widow and a Youth, sopranos; an Angel and the Queen, altos, and Elijah, basso. The story deals with incidents in the life of Elijah, the greatest of all the prophets of Israel, who flourished about 900 B. C. during the reigns of Ahab and Ahaziah. The work became popular immediately after its first production and has held its place in public favor ever since.


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