Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy’s oratorio Elias Op. 70 was premiered in 1846 at the Birmingham Festival. It depicts the life of the prophet Elijah, taken from the books 1 and 2 Kings of the Old Testament. While it was composed in the spirit of Mendelssohn’s Baroque predecessors Bach and Handel, its lyricism and use of orchestral and choral color clearly reflects Mendelssohn’s own genius as an early Romantic composer. Paulus Op. 36, written a decade earlier, was a popular work during Mendelssohn’s lifetime, but failed to maintain its stature in comparison to his other oratorios and the oratorios of Handel and Bach.
Except for a couple of concertos recorded by Stanley Weiner a quarter of a century ago, this is the first representation in the catalogue of Rameau’s contemporary, Jacques Aubert. A member of the Vingt-quatre Violons du Roy, he became leader of the Opera orchestra, also frequently appearing as a soloist in the public Concert spirituel series. His unwieldily-titled Suites of 1730 are regarded as antecedents of the French symphony (the preface sanctions performance by a larger body than a trio, justifying the approach here), but both the present works from the set commence with a French overture, continue with half a dozen dance forms, and end in a chaconne whose refrain is interspersed with episodes.
This reading shows the gentleness of the work perfectly…The essence of the score that Herreweghe brings out so well is Mendelssohn's flawless counterpoint, not just the fugal choruses but between orchestra and choir or woodwind and strings. The harmonic richness leaps out from the opening of the overture, with its lush orchestration of the chorale Wachet auf. It makes so much sense on a period orchestra.–Early Music Review
There are many other highly recommendable recordings by Collegium Musicum 90 under Simon Standage on the Chandos early music label, Chaconne. If you’ve heard a reasonable cross-section of the music of Vivaldi and would like to experiment with some of his near-contemporaries, their recording of Alessandro Marcello’s six Violin Concertos, Op.6, known as ‘La Cetra’, together with an extra Concerto in B-flat, would be a good place to start.
A contemporary of Tomaso Albinoni, Alessandro Marcello was the son of a senator in Venice. As such, he enjoyed a comfortable life that gave him the scope to pursue his interest in music. He held concerts in his hometown and also composed and published several sets of concertos, including six concertos under the title of La Cetra (The Lyre), as well as cantatas, arias, canzonets, and violin sonatas.
According to German theological tradition, which Bach knew very well, the alto voice was the very symbol of the Holy Ghost. Bach's three solo cantatas for alto demand enormous vocal virtuosity. Their extraordinary musical variety embraces sublime consolatory lullabies, a faithful echo of an organ concerto and the dramatic qualities of an oratorio. Andreas Scholl is the featured soloist in this reissue, backed by Philippe Herreweghe and the Collegium Vocale Gent.
This is yet another addition to the Collegium Musicum 90's superb series of Telemann recordings. Their tone is suitably mellow, much more attuned to the baroque sensibility than any other period instruments orchestra I can think of. The works here are totally engaging. The chalumeau is a predecessor of the clarinet. It makes a woody, somewhat recorder-like sound, and, on this showing, has a limited amount of versatility.
As a specialist in historical violin techniques of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, Simon Standage has performed with many of the world's leading period instrument orchestras. After a music degree from Cambridge University in 1963, a Harkness Fellowship to study with Ivan Galamian in New York City, and, after a 1972 Wigmore Hall debut, he became a founding member of Trevor Pinnock's ensemble the English Concert.
Collegium Musicum 90 was founded by Simon Standage and the late Richard Hickox in 1990, and is today a well-established ensemble for the performance of baroque and classical music, with a repertoire ranging from chamber music to large-scale works for choir and orchestra. As an exclusive Chandos artist, the ensemble has recorded more than fifty CDs for the label, which includes nine discs of instrumental music by Telemann.