It was last performed 162 years ago at Birmingham’s Town Hall but has not been heard since.
Despite Mendelssohn’s Elijah going down a storm on its debut performance, the German composer was not happy with the finished version and decided to make some major changes.
Now the original version of the piece is to be resurrected on Saturday at a sell-out concert by the city’s leading choir, Ex Cathedra, and fittingly it will take place at its first venue, the restored Town Hall.
Ex Cathedra member Derek Acock, who researched the original manuscript of the work which is stored at the city’s Central Library, said: “The version performed on August 26, 1846 at Birmingham Town Hall deserved the reception and accolades it received.
“Some commentators have suggested that the work was initially flawed, but I believe this performance will demonstrate that, on the contrary, some of Mendelssohn’s first thoughts were better. The performance of the 1846 version of Elijah is not just an interesting historical exercise – it can stand in its own right.”
Elijah was commissioned by the Birmingham Triennial Music Festival, once one of the biggest music festivals in Europe.
The piece brought the house down at the Town Hall with the packed audience of 2,000 demanding eight encores.
In a letter shortly afterwards Mendelssohn wrote “no concert of mine went so admirably the first time of execution or was received with such enthusiasm by both the musicians and the audience”.
A gushing review in The Times proclaimed: “Never was there a more thorough and speedy triumph”.
Mendelssohn, however, was not satisfied and revised the score before the second performance and it is this “director’s cut” which has gone down in history as one of his most famous pieces of work.
Ann Elliott, assistant music librarian at Central Library, said: “Although the reception was stunning, Mendelssohn wasn’t happy. Once he heard it live he perhaps heard that some things weren’t working as well as he thought.
“So he went away and revised quite a number of things. The final chorus is totally different. There are quite substantial reworkings in other areas.”
The book containing the original written version of the piece was acquired by Central Library in 1991 for £100,000 at auction and is being put on display to the public to coincide with Saturday's performance.
Ex Cathedra is to be accompanied by the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment for the unique concert which begins at 6.30pm.