Further Reading: Kati Debretzeni

For every concert in our Southbank Centre series, we ask one of our players to write a little note for audience members to read as they leave the concert hall. Here’s what our leader Kati Debretzeni wrote about our Mendelssohn's Elijah concert on Thursday 3 October 2019 at Southbank Centre's Royal Festival Hall.

Dear audience member,

Many thanks for listening to this monumental work. I hope you disagree as much as I do with Bernard Shaw derisively ridiculing its ‘exquisite prettiness’ It has so much more to offer – epic drama, hugely contrasting textures, some of my favourite Mendelssohnian tunes and crafty use of that full choir, orchestra and wonderful soloists. Please allow me here at the end of the evening to share a few personal thoughts evoked by the experience of performing it for you.

These days, I ask myself quite often whether I contribute anything to society in my capacity of classical music performer/teacher, and how does the music I engage with (such as Elijah, a musical story about a fire-brand Biblical cleric, fanatical and uncompromising in this narrative) change the world of those who come to listen. Apart from offering the audience an entertaining musical ‘evening out’, how is what I do relevant today?

When I started preparing the piece, I found the stark figure of this prophet much more difficult to relate to than other Biblical oratorio-protagonists. Then I tried to reflect on the episodes Mendelssohn chose form the narrative. Elijah is a man of principles, not afraid of calling out his people for pursuing ‘false idols’ – a ready-made point that gave me plenty to reflect on. He is not afraid to stand up to authority and speak out in defence of justice – another ‘relatable moment’ as my 10 year old daughter would say. And last but not least – the persecuted Elijah flees to the desert where he turns inwards, and discovers ‘the small voice within’ – familiar to anyone in the western world who engages with any sort of activity of trying to find one’s inner peace.

In today’s challenging world, we can still relate to several aspects of Elijah’s story – and I invite you to do just that as you leave the hall and think back on tonight’s performance.

See you soon!