Following Hatikvah, Paul Ben-Haim’s Fanfare to Israel, and upbeat praise from Culture and Sport Minister Limor Livnat, Beersheba Mayor Rubik Danilovich, manager Ofer Sela, board chairman Meir Englert and maestro Doron Solomon gave the downbeat to begin Mendelssohn’s 19th century masterpiece, Elijah.

Solomon led the Israel Sinfonietta, the Wuppertal choir (Germany), and four Israeli soloists in a congenial performance, with well-paced tempi, structural awareness and satisfying tonal shading.

Balancing forces effectively, he sidestepped dramatic, zealous, wrathful and gloomy characterization of the fiery biblical prophet of Mendelssohn’s imagination for a more gemutlich atmosphere.

The 50-voice amateur guest choir, Kantorei Barmen-Gemarke, from Wuppertal, Beersheba’s twin city, obviously knew the oratorio well, for their sure entrances, articulate German diction and committed presentation were professional in all respects. The vocal blend was mellow and clear – throughout complex contrapuntal textures. Of particular interest were three women choristers who stepped out of their sections to join the soloists, at front stage, for a lovely a cappella women’s terzetto “Lift up Thine Eyes.”

Among Israeli soloists, soprano Hilla Baggio impressed with vocal purity and sensitive phrasing in the aria “Hear Ye Israel.” Equally expressive was baritone Noah Briger, who portrayed Elijah’s arias “Lord, God of Abraham” and “It is enough” with noble stature and clarion delivery. Lighter in weight, lyric tenor Nimrod Greenberg gave a moving rendition of “Then Shall the Righteous Shine Forth.” Mezzo-soprano Shira Tal proved an effective interpreter, serious and well prepared throughout in various ariosos and duos.

The Sinfonietta, under Solomon, integrated their accompaniments with the various vocal combinations for cumulative effectiveness. The addition of lower brass players, from the IDF band, complemented and added resonance and depth to the overall sonority, while violin and viola arpeggio filigree, played almost constantly in the background, had assurance as well as endurance.

The performance will be repeated on Wednesday, October 17 at the Tel Aviv Museum.

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