Today, we commemorate the revelation of the Glory of Christ in his transfiguration on that mountain top so long ago. Themes of the Glory of Christ permeate the texts and hymns of the liturgy.
As we prepare for worship, we hear a lyrical and tender work by 20th century Anglican composer Herbert Howells based on a theme of the great Tudor composer Thomas Tallis. After a quiet beginning, the music gradually builds to a climax after which the composer quietly echoes the last strands of music in a coda bringing the work to a peaceful conclusion.
Mendelssohn’s oratorio Elijah was composed in the spirit of Mendelssohn's Baroque predecessors Bach and Handel, whose music he loved. In 1829 Mendelssohn organized the first performance of Bach's St Matthew Passion since the composer's death, and was instrumental in bringing it and other Bach works to widespread popularity. By contrast, Handel's oratorios never went out of fashion in England. Mendelssohn prepared a scholarly edition of some of Handel's oratorios for publication in London. Elijah is modelled on the oratorios of these two Baroque masters; however, in its lyricism and use of orchestral and choral color, the style clearly reflects Mendelssohn's own genius as an early Romantic composer. Mendelssohn’s oratorio tells the story of Elijah as found in Book of Kings with additional Psalms. At the Offertory, baritone Andrew Nalley, sings the lyrical aria “Lord God of Abraham.” These comforting words by the prophet Elijah, are in stark contrast to the preceding chorus in which the Israelites passionately cry out to the god Baal.
Prelude: Master Tallis's Testament, Herbert Howells
Solo at the Offertory: Recitative and Aria, from Elijah, Felix Mendelssohn - Andrew Nally, baritone
Postlude: The Heavens Declare the Glory of God, Benedetto Marcello