First of all, let me say that I love this piece of music. For me, it's the libretto
that is most interesting, because it gives some insight into Mendelssohn's religious beliefs and Biblical knowledge. Aside from that, the music is fantastic. Mendelssohn considered it to be his greatest work. I would generally agree with him. Though it has a few dull moments, the bright moments are by far in the majority, and more than make up for the dull ones. As oratorios go, this one is number two, after Handel's Messiah
, in my book.
I should probably mention that it is rather long at two hours and ten minutes.
I have this recording
and I don't know if it is the
best because it is the only one I have heard, but with Bryn Terfel in the title role, Renee Fleming as widow / angel, and Patrician Bardon as angel, all accompanied by the Endinburgh Festival Chorus and the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, it has to be right up there. When Terfel tells Ahab what for, one gets the idea. Surprisingly, for me, the most memorable Aria is "Rest in the Lord," sung by Bardon. (I generally hate mezzos and all their works, but I liked this aria, and even this mezzo.) The boy soprano's part is extremely interesting, and used by Mendelssohn to amazing effect. The NYT had this to say
about the Terfel recording.
I would highly recommend both this recording and the oratorio in general. Don't miss an opportunity to hear it live.