This Thursday, April 30, the Natchitoches-Northwestern Symphony Orchestra and NSU Symphony Choirs will present Mendelssohn’s Elijah. Felix Mendelssohn was one of the major German composers of the early 19th century, and his oratorio Elijah tells the familiar story of the Biblical prophet by that name. The concert begins at 7:30 PM in nearby Natchitoches at Magale Recital Hall on the NSU campus.
The NSU News Bureau has already contributed an excellent article about Elijah and this presentation of the great work. So, instead, I would like to share some personal experiences I have had with Mendelssohn and his Elijah. Namely, I visited the very house where Mendelssohn composed this piece!
Almost two years ago now, I travelled to Leipzig, Germany, and while there I toured the Mendelssohn-Haus museum. This building (shown to the left) was where Mendelssohn lived in his final years. Just outside the historic city center, Mendelssohn’s new home was only a few blocks away from the Gewandhaus where he led the orchestra for regular concerts. Mendelssohn had purchased a few rooms on the third floor of this building expecting this to be a comfortable, lasting estate for him and his family to reside. Although still a relatively young man, Mendelssohn, however, died unexpectedly just a few years after moving in. Nonetheless, these apartments have become the best-preserved tribute to the great composer.
It was in his study (to the right) that Mendelssohn wrote Elijah and a handful of other great works in his final years. Notice on top of the cabinet the busts of Mendelssohn’s two idols – composer Johann Sebastian Bach and poet-playwright Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. Mendelssohn had helped to rediscover the music of Bach, and became one of the main people responsible for establishing Bach’s reputation as a great composer. Goethe was a major inspiration to the Romantics – in literature, music, etc. – thanks in large part to his novella The Sorrows of Young Werther and his drama Faust. Bach and Goethe also had important ties to Leipzig and the surrounding area, so I had the chance to see many sights associated with these figures while on my trip too.
On display elsewhere in the Mendelssohn-Haus was a score to Elijah (below), dating from the years immediately following Mendelssohn’s death. That was quite the unforgettable experience too – to get to see the score of a great work written in those very surroundings 150 years prior in a form not very different from the version Mendelssohn himself would have known. (Read the full story of my exciting trip to Leipzig at my Musical Travels page!)
While I do have Elijah on CD, I have never heard it performed live – thanks goes out to everyone at NSU who has collaborated to provide me and other music lovers with this great opportunity. I’m looking forward to travelling that direction Thursday evening!
Elijah is not the only special music event coming to Central Louisiana this week… Thursday evening also begins the three-day festivities of AlexRiverFête. Friday and Saturday are packed with music including performances by John De Chiaro and the Alexandria Youth Orchestra, the Kaminari Taiko drummers, traditional Chinese musicians, and more. See Facebook for the full schedule!
About Jackson. Jackson Harmeyer is a music historian and composer. He is a graduate of the Louisiana Scholars’ College – Louisiana’s designated honors college – where he completed an undergraduate thesis entitled “Learning from the Past: The Influence of Johann Sebastian Bach upon the Soviet Composers.” He has followed classical music around the world, attending the BachFest Leipzig in Germany, Colorado’s Aspen Music Festival, and many concerts across Louisiana and Texas. Resident in Alexandria, Jackson works with the Arts Council of Central Louisiana as Series Director of the Abendmusik Alexandria chamber music series. He also writes the program notes for the Rapides Symphony Orchestra. As his day job, Jackson serves as Operations Manager of TicketCentral.