Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy was fascinated by the music of the Baroque era, so it is no wonder that when writing great choral works, he modelled them on the oratorios of Johann Sebastian Bach and George Frideric Handel. However, Elijah, the composer's late masterpiece, also bears the mark of his own recognizable style.
The line-up of Elijah is in line with the spirit of the Romantic era, with eight soloists, a large choir, as well as an extensive orchestra reinforced by the sound of three types of trombones, ophicleide (prototype of the tuba) and organ. The composer considered writing a work inspired by the story of the Old Testament prophet Elijah in the late 1830s, but the final impulse to start work was a commission from the organizers of the Birmingham Triennial Music Festival. The premiere of the new work took place in August 1846 under Mendelssohn’s baton. Elijah was enthusiastically received by the audience, but its author was not satisfied and decided to introduce several modifications to the oratorio. In April the following year, he conducted its revised version in the presence of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, who liked the work very much, which boosted its great popularity on the Islands. One of the two soprano parts was written for the famous singer Jenny Lind, with whom Mendelssohn was close friends and whom the critic called a "Swedish nightingale". However, the Jenny could not take part in the world premiere, and sang the part dedicated to her for the first time in 1848, after the composer's death.
At the beginning of the 20th century, Elijah fell into oblivion. In recent years, however, this work returns to favour and is enthusiastically received as one of the most interesting works of the Romantic era.