Halifax Choral Society
Victoria Theatre, Halifax
Premiered at the Birmingham Festival in 1846, Mendelssohn’s dramatic oratorio Elijah was one of his greatest successes.
Having assembled a professional orchestra in the shape of the Newcastle-based Northern Sinfonia and four world-class soloists, a success was equally assured for Halifax Choral Society under their artistic director and conductor, John Pryce-Jones.
The skillful musicianship of the society is well-known and was much in evidence in the many contrasting choruses; expertly sensitive and well-balanced such as in He That Shall Endure To The End, strong and tempestuous, depicting earthquake and fire in Behold! God the Lord Passed By.
Almost every solo aria in Elijah has the stamp of quality and Mendelssohn shares them out equally among the four soloists.
Andrew Foster-Williams (bass) delivered a strong characterisation of Elijah, and his recitatives and arias were clear and expressive – particularly the well-known Lord God of Abraham.
Anna Burford (alto) sang a richly expressive O Rest in The Lord and Woe Unto Them Who Forsake Him!
Similarly, Judith Howarth (soprano) delivered some beautifully controlled singing, notably in the aria Hear Ye, Israel; Hear What the Lord Speaketh.
If the young tenor soloist David Shaw initially appeared a little under-powered, it soon became apparent that his light, lyrical voice was well-suited to such well-crafted arias as If With All Your Hearts and Then Shall the Righteous Shine Forth.
Though the audience might have been more substantial, the powerful and thrilling concluding chorus brought a rapturous reception.