Carnegie Hall on a Sunday afternoon. A young child sits next to an old man, while a young couple slides in next to a pair of stately aficionados. There are a few out of town visitors, but this afternoon’s presentation by the New York City Choral Society of Mendelssohn’s rarely performed “Saint Paul” is for us: the citizens of this great, and diverse city.
“Zet sich avec!” Bombay native Zubin Mehta pleaded in Yiddish with the 500 black-tie guests to sit down when they honored him with a standing ovation at a post-concert dinner last month at the Plaza Hotel.
Born 76 years ago in Bombay (now Mumbai), the maestro has picked up quite a few Yiddish and Hebrew expressions since becoming music conductor for life of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra in 1981.
Tonight the New York Philharmonic begins the first of three "Elijah" performances. They should all be magnificent, on purely aesthetic grounds. But there's a deep theological divide embedded in this work too, and one that has profound implications for our understanding of how Jewish a composer -- if one at all -- Felix Mendelssohn was.
Was the German composer’s oratorio a nod toward his Jewish ancestry — or the full fruition of his Christian identity?
When the New York Philharmonic performs Felix Mendelssohn’s rarely heard “Elijah” (1846) oratorio this weekend, many will no doubt see it as proof that the composer always identified with his family’s Jewish faith.