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The Price of AssimilationFelix Mendelssohn and the Nineteenth-Century Anti-Semitic Tradition$
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Jeffrey S. Sposato

Print publication date: 2005

Print ISBN-13: 9780195149746

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2008

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195149746.001.0001

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(p.114) 5 Elias
The Price of Assimilation

Jeffrey S. Sposato

Oxford University Press

This chapter discusses Felix Mendelssohn's second major oratorio, Elias or Elijah. First performed in 1846, shortly before Mendelssohn's death, Elias is often interpreted as a profession of Mendelssohn's residual Jewish faith, given its Old Testament subject matter. This chapter demonstrates, however, that Elias, like Mendelssohn's Mose libretto, is a profoundly Christological work, as the life of the Biblical Elijah has been reshaped to mimic more closely the life of Christ. While not a Jewish work per se, Elijah lacks the blatant anti-Semitism found in Mendelssohn's earlier oratorio, Paulus, suggesting again that Mendelssohn tempered the anti-Semitism in his works after the death of his father, Abraham Mendelssohn.

Keywords:   Abraham Mendelssohn, Judaism, Elijah, anti-Semitism, Christological

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