For the first time since high school, I’ve been listening to Mendelssohn’s Elijah . Back then, my sense of the connection between music and the rest of history was faulty; Bach was very old – I imagined Gothic cathedrals for some reason – and Mendelssohn sounded a bit like Bach.
You never hear Elijah on the radio. In fact, you don’t hear it much at all, except for all its echoes in musicals and film scores. I wonder whether this is really deserved, and whether Mendelssohn’s reputation can be recovered even if it ought to be. Wagner and his crew attacked him because he was not Christian; this would be a forgotten footnote if the 20th century had gone otherwise but is now impossible to forget when thinking about Mendelssohn. Then Shaw and friends attacked him because he was not Modern. I’ve always heard that he was too happy to be truly great. But he could not really have been Modern, and ought he to have known what was coming?