“It is Enough”: The Plea of Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy and his Biblical Protagonist

Avery Schott Butler University
Faculty Sponsor(s): Nicholas Johnson Butler University
This paper examines the influence of Johann Sebastian Bach upon the oratorio Elijah by Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy. I focus upon the tenor aria “It is Enough” in comparison to Bach’s setting of “Es ist Vollbracht” from St. John Passion, “Es is Genung” a chorale work, and writing styles with St. Matthew Passion. I argue that when Mendelssohn premiered his work in Birmingham he was seeking to express an inner conflict of two national and religious identities, shaping his musical choices within the writing of “It is Enough,” making Elijah’s plea his own.
In analyzing Victorian societal patterns, I use the city of Birmingham, where the work was premiered in 1846, as a case study. Drawing on scholarship from Anne Baltz Rodrick, Roy Hartnell, and Clive Behagg, I develop a narrative of Birmingham society at the time of Elijah’s premiere through the lenses of civic involvement, patriotism, industry, and art. Furthermore, scholarship by Celia Appelgate highlights the work of a young Mendelssohn in a Berlin revival of J.S. Bach’s St. Matthew Passion, while Martin Staehlin’s textual analysis between St. John Passion and Elijah further links the two composers in respect to character development.
Mendelssohn’s bold portrayal of a Jewish hero’s struggle was done discreetly under a christian facade that would be socially acceptable at this time. Elijah embodies Mendelssohn’s struggle in denying his jewish faith within a society that championed evangelist christian values.
Oral Presentation

When & Where

09:30 AM
Lilly Hall 141