Jephtha (1752) was George Frederick Handel's final oratorio, and it was composed during a period of incipient blindness and declining health. Yet the composer's artistic powers were undiminished in this dramatization of the Biblical story, for the arias and choruses are as memorable as any from Handel's earlier works in the genre, including Messiah and Israel in Egypt. This 2008 recording by Fabio Biondi, the Collegium Vocale Ghent, and the Stavanger Symphony Orchestra is a brilliant period presentation, and the spry rhythms, lean counterpoint, clear textures, and distinctive colors of original instruments combine to make this an especially enjoyable performance of a fairly neglected masterpiece.
The plot of "Jephtha" is based, with alterations, on Chapter XI of Judges. This begins, "Now Jephtha the Gileadite was a mighty man of valour, and he was the son of a harlot." He was disinherited by his half-brothers, the sons of Gilead's legitimate wife, and went into exile, becoming a kind of outlaw leader. Now the Israelites, including [hose of Gilead, who have been following Mrange gods, are being oppressed by the Ammonites. [/quote]
This BBC Proms concert, titled A Handel Celebration, commemorates the 250th anniversary of Handel’s death and the 30th anniversary of the founding of The Sixteen, which got its name from the fact that the original chorus had 16 members. The forces used here are a bit larger than those Harry Christophers usually employs. The mixed-voice chorus numbers 30, and the orchestra is listed at 42 members, although it does not appear that they are all onstage at the same time.
Does music add substance to words or is music inspired by them? Songs of departure and farewell are deeply rooted in the great tradition of British choral music, nourished by ancient myths of testing journeys, wayside transformations and homecomings. The transcendent nature of music and the power of poetry to challenge and alter perceptions of reality – harnessed by English composers over many centuries – flow through a programme that invites contemplation of life and death, of love and loss, creation and eternity. In a journey covering six centuries of musical history, The Sixteen performs a cappella anthems with powerful texts by writers as varied as Edmund Spenser, Christopher Fry and W.H. Auden.
The Sixteen adds to its stunning Handel collection with a brand new recording of Dixit Dominus set alongside a little know treasure - Agostino Steffani’s Stabat Mater. Full of virtuosity, vibrant colour and dynamic energy, Handel’s Dixit Dominus captures absolutely the Italian style of the period. Handel’s control of forces is masterly and the range of texture and style is breathtaking. Written during the composer’s time in Italy in the early eighteenth century it is amongst his first autographed works and also one of his finest. By comparison Agostino Steffani’s little known Stabat Mater was one of his last compositions. Written for the Academy of Vocal Music in London, this work is the most powerful expression of Steffani’s religious fervour and, outside opera, his largest, most varied and most heartfelt composition.
A brand-new label from one of the world's finest early music ensembles makes an auspicious debut with this stunning new recording of Handel's oratorio Belshazzar. Les Arts Florissants, led by the great William Christie, have launched their new label with the goal of expanding the ensemble's connection to the listening public on a scale far beyond the concert hall. Belshazzar was first performed in 1745, and was frequently revised. Christie has chosen what he considers to be the most successful of the various versions of Belshazzar, resulting in the restoration of the piece in all its splendor. The libretto's subject, which focuses on the decline of a once glorious society and the ephemeral nature of Empire, is especially relevant today. This deluxe set also includes a bonus essay by Jean Echenoz entitled In Babylon, printed separately on special paper and included alongside the regular booklet. This specially commissioned work draws the reader deep into the ancient, majestic city, the seat of power of Belshazzar the King.
Acclaimed countertenor Iestyn Davies and The King’s Consort perform an outstanding programme of Handel arias from some of the composer’s finest oratorios. Eleven varied solo arias include ‘O sacred oracles of truth’, the delicate ‘Tune your harps’, ‘Eternal source of light’ (with supreme trumpet playing from Crispian Steele-Perkins), the melodious ‘Your tuneful voice’ and the virtuoso ‘Mighty love now calls to arm’, as well as rarities including ‘On the valleys, dark and cheerless’ and an especial jewel, ‘Mortals think that Time is sleeping’.