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Hyperion Records

CDA66641/2 - Handel: Judas Maccabaeus
Judas Maccabaeus by Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640)
Cliché Ville de Nantes, Musée des Beaux Arts / Patrick Jean
CDA66641/2
Recording details: March 1992
St Jude-on-the-Hill, Hampstead Garden Suburb, London, United Kingdom
Produced by Ben Turner
Engineered by Philip Hobbs
Release date: November 1992
Total duration: 148 minutes 16 seconds

BEST CD OF THE YEAR AWARD, CZECH HARMONY, PRAGUE
AMERICAN HANDEL SOCIETY RECORDING PRIZE 1992

'A profusion of colourful delights … persuasive evidence indeed that what may seem mediocre on the page can spring to life, given the artistry and conviction of performers of this calibre' (BBC Music Magazine Top 1000 CDs Guide)

'Excellent—don't miss it.' (BBC Music Magazine)

'An outstanding achievement' (CDReview)

'… finally received a recording worthy of its grandeur' (Los Angeles Times)

'Una interpretación absolutamente arrolladora' (CD Compact, Spain)

Judas Maccabaeus
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Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
1745 proved to be a troublesome year for both Handel and England. In Handel’s case there was increasing opposition from fans of opera to his oratorios, a growing lack of interest amongst his regular followers and even an organized boycott by the ladies of high society, led by Lady Margaret Cecil Brown. Audiences for his regular London season thus proved thin. An ambitious run of twenty-four planned oratorio concerts (including first performances of Hercules and Belshazzar) attracted such small crowds that the composer called a halt after sixteen concerts. If he had not done so he might have risked bankruptcy. Handel must have been depressed, for when his operas had finally lost their audiences he had been able to develop a new public appeal by putting on oratorios. Now this form too seemed doomed. By the summer his health was suffering and he retired to the country to recuperate.

Nationally, a greater drama—and a considerably greater opposition—was developing, for on 2 August Prince Charles Edward, son of the Stuart Pretender to the Scottish and English thrones, landed his army in the Hebrides whilst George II was in Hanover, and started to move south: victory in September at Prestonpans caused consternation in London. The English army hastily returned from Flanders and, under the Duke of Cumberland, marched north. By 15 November Bonnie Prince Charlie and his army were already over the border, having taken Carlisle. England, and Handel, held their breath, and the Jacobites got as far south as Derby before lack of local support ensured that they were forced to start their retreat. Even then, final victory was not assured for some time. Handel, recovered from the mental disorder caused by the stress of his season’s failure, had apparently already started work on Judas Maccabaeus during autumn 1745, but shelved it at the start of 1746 in order to compose the Occasional Oratorio. This he did fast, re-using much pre-existing material so that the work could be performed on 14 February 1746 as a piece of propaganda encouraging the loyalists (the Jacobites were not yet defeated and all encouragement was needed). Only after the violent battle of Culloden on 16 April 1746 was Handel sure that a victory oratorio would be necessary. He returned to the score of Judas Maccabaeus. According to the autograph he started work writing out his fair copy of Act I on ‘9 July 1746 or the 8th’ (Handel gives the alternatives), completing this on 22 July. Act II took a further week, and by 11 August the score was complete.

Handel held no oratorio season during 1746, simply performing the Occasional Oratorio three times. His next season opened at Covent Garden Theatre on 6 March 1747. For the first time, he abandoned the subscription scheme and opened the doors to all-comers, and Judas Maccabaeus opened on 1 April. According to Lord Shaftesbury it ‘went off with very great Applause’. Handel’s pocket benefited considerably: we know that after the third performance he banked £250 (this being clear profit after paying all the performers) and in the following year he made at least £800 from six performances of the work. Handel’s wider triumph was also a political and sociological one: for once the middle classes were able to attend performances alongside the higher echelons of society. With the topical draw of a victorious warlike hero, the parallels with the Duke of Cumberland proved a winner with people of all political persuasions—except, one assumes, with the now silent Jacobites!

The libretto
Handel’s librettist was The Reverend Thomas Morell, a Fellow of King’s College Cambridge and lover of music, working with Handel for the first time. Morell, writing to an unknown correspondent some twenty-five years later, gives a revealing account of his feelings about oratorio libretti, and also an entertaining view of what it was like to work with Handel:

… And now as to Oratorio’s: ‘There was a time (says Mr Addison) when it was laid down as a maxim, that nothing was capable of being well set to muisck, that was not nonsense.’
And this, I think, though it be wrote before Oratorio’s were in fashion, supplies an Oratorio-writer (if he may be called a writer) with some sort of apology; especially if it be considered, what alterations he must submit to, if the composer be of a haughty disposition, and has but an imperfect acquaintance with the English language. As to myself, great a lover as I am of music, I should never have thought of such an undertaking (in which for the reasons above, little or no credit is gained) had not Mr Handel applied to me, when at Kew, in 1746, [Morell’s error—surely 1745] and added to his request the honour of a recommendation from Prince Frederic. Upon this I thought I could do as well as some that had gone before me, and within 2 or 3 days carried him the first Act of Judas Maccabaeus, which he approved of. ‘Well,’ says he, ‘and how are you to go on?’
‘Why, we are to suppose an engagement, and that the Israelites have conquered, and so begin with a chorus as Fallen is the Foe or something like it.’
‘No, I will have this,’ and began working it, as it is, upon the Harpsichord. ‘Well, go on.’
‘I will bring you more tomorrow.’
‘No, something now.’
‘So fall thy Foes, O Lord.’
‘That will do,’ and immediately carried on the composition as we have it in that most admirable chorus …

Some critics, notably Winton Dean, have given Morell’s efforts a poor billing, accusing him of ‘haphazard methods of construction, weak characterization and facility in platitude’. In comparison to the works of previous years, Judas Maccabaeus certainly has a less subtle, more energetic appeal, but Handel’s decision to abandon the subscription concert series and throw open the theatre doors to all comers required him to draw in a new type of audience. London too was still in ferment after the national crisis, with a desire for novelty and sensation: Morell responded with a libretto which could as easily apply to ‘Butcher’ Cumberland as to the warlike Judas Maccabaeus. Handel had come unstuck in Hercules and Belshazzar by using strong characterization and intense personal drama: the national situation currently required high energy and pageantry, and this was provided in style in Judas. But whatever thoughts people may have about the standard of the libretto, there can little argument that the music is anything but superb!

Casting and scale of forces
Handel’s original cast of 1747 included the young tenor John Beard as Judas, the soprano Elisabetta de Gambarini (Israelitish Woman), the mezzo-soprano Caterina Galli (Israelitish Man) and the bass Henry Reinhold (Simon). Beard sang more of Handel’s roles than any other singer during the composer’s lifetime: at the time of the first performance he was a relatively young man, only just nearing the age of 30. In casting our twentieth-century Judas we followed this example. The idea of having a woman to sing the part of an ‘Israelite Man’ was of course nothing new in Handel’s day, but we deliberately cast a strong, full-blooded mezzo-soprano voice who would be a contrast with a more feminine ‘Israelite Woman’. In Handel’s first performance Galli doubled in the role of the Priest (singing ‘Father of Heaven’): in later performances other singers were given the role, a precedent which we followed to separate the characters. Handel’s choir was a group of men and boys from the Chapel Royal numbering about two dozen. Eighteenth-century soloists also sang in the choruses, which would have made for an exhausting evening’s work and a strange blend of choral sound: instead of doing this we slightly increased the size of our all-male chorus. The orchestra is scaled similarly to Handel’s original orchestra at Covent Garden, both in string strength and disposition of woodwind. Recreating a venue which no longer exists is clearly impossible, but our recorded sound was carefully calculated (after an extensive preparatory French concert tour) to try to imitate the lively but clear acoustic that Handel’s theatrical venue would have had.

Performing version
Judas Maccabaeus was a terrific success at its first performance and proved to be one of Handel’s most successful oratorios. During his lifetime there were at least fifty-four performances, of which he conducted thirty-three, and the oratorio was included each year in Handel’s Covent Garden programme except 1749. As with most of his oratorios, the composer made additions and changes to the score in subsequent performances, usually reflecting the requirements of the available soloists, but he was also not averse to including an aria or chorus that had been especially popular in another oratorio. Judas is unusual in that all Handel’s additions after 1747 were taken from other works, and that none of the 1747 material was removed (though some was re-written or transposed). The version recorded here is, if played complete, not an exact copy of any one performance during Handel’s lifetime, but it is strongly based on the original 1747 draft score. Even between writing that draft manuscript and giving the premiere Handel made some revisions: ‘Pious orgies’ was transposed into G and given to the soprano (rather than in E flat for Simon), Judas was given the Israelite Man’s part in the recitative ‘Ye worshippers of God’ and the lower part in the duet ‘Oh, never bow we down’, and ‘O lovely peace’ was re-written as a duet (clearly in some haste, for the scoring of the solo is far superior to that of the duet). With the exception of ‘Pious orgies’ (where we have recorded the soprano version) we have kept in these movements to Handel’s original intentions.

Purists with a programmable CD player will be able to take out all our other non-1747 additions. The original score did not contain ‘Oh liberty’ (though Morell had written it into his libretto, from which it was hastily transferred into the Occasional Oratorio, being restored to Judas at the third 1747 performance), but we have included it here: it proved to be one of the biggest hits of the oratorio for years afterwards. Our other additions were all put into various performances after 1747. The short recitative ‘Haste we my brethren’ at the end of Act I was inserted in 1750 along with a number of different arias (‘May balmy peace’ from the Occasional Oratorio in 1750 and 1751, ‘Endless fame’ from Esther from 1752–1757, and ‘Far brighter than the morning’ in 1758 and 1759). To split up Judas’s aria and the closing chorus we have kept the recitative, but have not included any of the selection of arias. In Act II the recitative ‘Well may we hope’, the duet ‘Sion now her head shall raise’ and the marvellous chorus ‘Tune your harps’ appeared in Judas in 1758, being taken from the revival of Esther the previous year: at the same time the soprano aria ‘Wise men flatt’ring’ (adapted from Agrippina) was transferred from Belshazzar. In both cases the thicker orchestral scoring makes an interesting comparison with Handel’s writing of the 1740s. It has been suggested that, with the onset of Handel’s blindness, John Smith the younger, amanuensis to Handel, may have re-scored these movements himself. Whatever the reason, the music is too good to miss out! Handel inserted different arias at various performances into the two long recitatives in Act III, including two from Joshua, ‘Oh had I jubal’s lyre’ and ‘Happy, O thrice happy we’ (recorded by Emma Kirkby and The King’s Consort on Hyperion CDA66461/2). Again, with such a variety of choices, two of which have already been recorded by our forces, we have not included any numbers from this selection. A more famous addition from Joshua arrived in 1750 when the chorus ‘See the conqu’ring hero comes’ was inserted, along with the March that follows (moved from after ‘Sound an alarm’ in Act II). A huge hit in Joshua, ‘See the conqu’ring hero’ remained in all subsequent performances of Judas Maccabaeus—in the twentieth century it would probably cause an outcry if omitted!

Background
Morell’s libretto was ‘design’d as a compliment to the Duke of Cumberland upon his returning victorious from Scotland’, but skilfully avoided any direct reference to the events of the rebellion and its bloody suppression: this would have limited the oratorio’s after-use. Morell’s main source was the first book of Maccabees, in the Apocrypha, to which he added a few details from Josephus’ Antiquitates Judaicae. The background to the story begins in 169BC with the Jewish resistance to the Syrian conquest of Judaea, when the Syrians, under their king Antiochus Epiphanes, attacked and desecrated the temple at Jerusalem and attempted to suppress the religion and traditional customs of the Jews. The Jews responded under the leadership of Mattathias and, over the next eight years, gained some victories. In 161BC Mattathias died, and it is at this point in history that the oratorio begins.

Act I
The Overture to Judas Maccabaeus is one of Handel’s greatest. The stately dotted rhythms, minor key and angular melodic leaps of the opening create a suitably solemn mood, leading into a superb fugue. The theme is based on one of Handel’s Italian duets, ‘Sono liete’ (recorded on CDH55262), with the repeated semi-quaver rhythm apparently based on a theme in Telemann’s Musique de Table (from which Handel borrowed quite liberally; recorded on CDH55278). Winton Dean also makes a link with the warlike semi-chorus ‘Disdainful of danger’: certainly the mood is actively aggressive, the lines angular and extrovert. Handel’s scoring is masterly, for the fugue begins only with strings and harpsichord: the entry of the oboes, bassoons and organ in block chords at the mid-point is thrilling. A dramatic French-style dotted Lentement intervenes, the fugue is repeated again, but this time with a rapid ending which suggests that the composer is impatient to get on with the action. The opening chorus (of ‘Israelites, Men and Women, lamenting the death of Mattathias, father of Judas Maccabaeus’) is a fine one, graphically expressive in its picture of Mattathias’s solemn funeral procession, with the word ‘mourn’ set particularly poignantly, and ‘your hero is no more’ pointed by a repeated falling arpeggio. The Israelite Man and Woman continue the mournful mood in their recitative, for the Israelites’ fortunes are at a low ebb with the death of their leader. The duet ‘From this dread scene’ is more dramatic, the strings’ dotted rhythms and the wide-ranging vocal tessitura (taking the soprano to her lowest reaches and the mezzo-soprano to her highest) portraying the ‘boasted tow’rs’ of Solyma lying in ‘smoky ruins’.

The funeral atmosphere returns with the stunning chorus ‘For Sion lamentation make’. Over minor chords from the upper strings and a falling, undulating bass line the bassoons are at their most plaintive, sighing in their upper register. The choir enter in a mournful barcarolle, the harmony is full of the richest suspensions and the alliteration of the words poignantly set: Handel is on superb form. Simon, one of Mattathias’s sons, enters, reasoning that such grief does not become God’s chosen race. Morell’s rather bizarre text for the Israelitish Man, ‘Pious orgies’, draws elegantly tuneful writing from the composer, and the Israelites’ confidence that their prayers will be answered is strengthened in the hymn-like opening to the chorus ‘Oh Father, whose almighty pow’r’, turning at the midpoint into a confident fugue ‘And grant a leader bold and brave’. Simon returns with a brisk accompagnato ‘I feel the Deity within’ in which he points out his brother Judas as the next leader of Israel. In the air ‘Arm, arm ye brave’ he stirs his fellows into action (with some delightful doubling of the voice by the bassoon), driving the Israelites into a lively chorus ‘We come in bright array’. The words are pointed by the orchestra’s driving fanfares: the insistent block chord repetitions of ‘Judah’ are especially powerful. Judas responds with the dramatic air ‘Call forth thy powr’s’, full of runs for both orchestra and soloist, and containing a contrasting middle section ‘Great is the glory’.

Next, more for musical contrast than dramatic necessity, comes a series of four liberty airs, the first of which, ‘Oh liberty’, is scored for solo cello and continuo, with the tutti strings joining in for the affectionate playout. ‘Come ever smiling liberty’ proved to be a huge hit with audiences in 1748, being encored in mid-performance: it has all the charm and good melody that makes Handel’s simple arias so appealing. The Israelite Man’s response ‘’Tis liberty’ proved to be equally popular, being sung at Covent Garden four times in a month, and later even being arranged for barrel organ! The sequence ends with a reprise of ‘Come, ever smiling liberty’, now neatly turned into a duet, shortened and given a fuller orchestral texture. With the chorus ‘Lead on’ the warlike mood returns, and Judas fires up his troops with a dramatic accompagnato in which he resolves ‘on liberty or death’. The semi-chorus ‘Disdainful of danger’ is splendid: Handel scores it for men’s voices only, the rushing scales and repeated notes vividly representing the impetuous Israelite men in their ‘rush on the foe’: the phrase ‘that thy pow’r, oh Jehova’ rollicks along. Judas sets out his aims for victory and eventual peace in the air ‘No unhallow’d desire’, and the Act ends with the Israelite’s prayer ‘Hear us O Lord’, in which the smooth opening theme and the pleading repetitions of ‘hear us’ are contrasted with the more lively scalic movement as they, ‘resolv’d on conquest or a glorious fall’, go off to battle.

Act II
At the start of Act II the Israelites are celebrating victory over invaders from Samaria (under Apollonius) and Syria (under Seron). ‘Fall’n is the foe’ is a splendid chorus, with a hugely energetic opening for the strings. The first choral phrase is fired amongst the voices like an arrow, occasionally interrupted by sudden hushes for the word ‘fall’n’. Towards the end of the movement, when fugue gives way to choral block chords, the choir are given a particularly thundrous unison orchestral accompaniment for ‘where warlike Judas wields his mighty sword’. The Israelite Man is provided with a virtuoso air ‘So rapid thy course is’, exploiting the agility of the voice and the extremes of its range and giving ample evidence of Caterina Galli’s vocal pyrotechnics. The duet ‘Sion now her head shall raise’ and the extensive chorus ‘Tune your harps’ into which it links were the last of Handel’s additions to the oratorio, with sumptous vocal and instrumental scoring, especially in the overlapping entries for the divided boys and the full wind scoring, full of passages of doubled thirds. In her recitative ‘Oh let eternal honours’ the Israelitish Woman praises Judas’s courage in battle but in the following air ‘From mighty kings’, another gem, Handel chooses to stress the more gentle, smiling, side of the text in gloriously lilting writing for his soprano. The brief middle section ‘Judah rejoiceth in his way’ is a contrast in almost every way, brisk and busy in its runs. With the duet and chorus ‘Hail, Judea, happy land’, in the bright key of D major, the Israelites are now confident and happy. Judas reminds them that the victory came because heaven willed it so, and that it is to that quarter that they should ‘give your applause’. In setting Judas’s air ‘How vain is man’ some writers have suggested that Handel misunderstood the meaning of the word ‘vain’, interpreting ‘conceited’ rather than Morell’s intended ‘empty’: but Judas is a fiery, warlike character (and so was his English parallel Cumberland), and Handel makes play with the word ‘gigantic’ in another virtuoso test of his soloist. The middle section ‘And dreams not that a hand unseen’ is one of the few pieces of lyrical writing for Judas in the oratorio.

The triumphant mood is rapidly broken by the messenger’s news of renewed war. Antiochus, King of Samaria, has sent a large force under Gorgias: once again there is a threat of war and the Israelites are thrown into depression. The air and chorus ‘Ah, wretched Israel’ is of the finest quality. The texture at the start is simple: a solo cello sets the despondent mood, and is then joined by a lamenting solo soprano. At the tutti strings’ entry, Handel (following the example of Purcell at moments of great tragedy) utilizes a ground bass. The entry of the chorus increases the pathos, with the word ‘wretched’ set with especial feeling: towards the end, the phrase ‘fall’n, how low’ is spread amongst the voices to devastating effect and the strings end the movement softly. Simon is left to reason that such events are sent not to destroy Israel, but to punish it for its misdemeanours against God. His splendid air ‘The Lord worketh wonders’ contains all the word-painting that one would expect, with rising phrases for ‘his glory to raise’, and especially graphic writing for the voice and the continuo section for ‘thunders’.

The warlike Judas is immediately roused into making war against the Idumean governer, and Handel obliges with a marvellous solo and chorus, ‘Sound an alarm’. The temptation to bring in the full orchestra at the start is resisted: Judas’s first call to arms is answered by the continuo section (in our recording, every available bass instrument in the orchestra!). At the mid-point, Judas sounds his alarm again, and this time is rewarded by the entry of the whole orchestra: the trumpets and timpani play their first notes in the oratorio—what an exciting entry this is! Finally the chorus enter with ‘We hear the pleasing, dreadful call’, pulled along by the trumpets and timpani’s insistently driving fanfares. Faint respite is given by the sudden silence and drop in dynamics at ‘if to fall’ but the build-up through ‘for laws, religion, liberty, we fall’ is inexorable and the movement ends in a blaze of orchestral sound. Once again Simon is the calm voice of reason, calling a halt to the bellicose mood: whilst his brother is at war, he has to clean up the temple, which has been desecrated. In the beautiful air ‘With pious hearts’, his simple melody and the violins’ sighing cross-phrasing creates a mood of noble resignation. The Israelite Man and Woman too lend their support, hurling ‘polluted altars’ and other profane elements out of the temple.

Handel’s 1758 addition to the score of ‘Wise men flatt’ring’ (based on a movement from nearly fifty years before in Agrippina) brings in a jewel. The scoring includes two horns, two flutes, two oboes and two bassoons, as well as strings, and with this variety of instruments at his disposal, Handel produces a wealth of glorious textures. The simple melody, lilting in its gentle triple time and accompanied by a rising triad which moves through all the orchestra, is a winner. The cleaning of the temple now completed, the Israelite Man and Woman state the resolve of the Israelites not to worship anyone but God in ‘We never will bow down’ (with some of Morell’s most trite words), and their melody is taken up by the chorus before Handel resorts, as he often does in moments of a weak libretto, to a fugue to close the Act. The key changes from minor to major, and the composer gives added impact by utilizing a double fugue. Striking block chords characterize the first subject (almost an inversion of Bach’s famous ‘St Anne’ theme) which continues throughout the movement in long notes in at least one of the voice parts: against this is heard the second fugal subject, more rhythmically lively. The Act ends with the Israelites’ defiant affirmation of their strong belief in God.

Act III
For the gentle celebration of the Feast of Lights which opens the third Act, Handel produced a masterpiece. ‘Father of Heaven’ is every bit as great a melody as ‘Ombra mai fu’. From the first notes of the string introduction the music flows gracefully, beautifully scored and gloriously serene: leaving the singer’s first phrase unaccompanied was a masterstroke. Handel’s principal cellist must have relished his ravishing continuo line! The middle section, for a change, does not go to the minor. Instead, with ‘And thus our grateful hearts employ’ the voice is encouraged into its upper reaches. The quiet return to the opening section is spellbinding—even with the most unsophisticated Handelian audience there surely cannot have been a dry eye in the house! The Israelite Man takes the rising incense from the altar to be a sign that God has heard the prayers, and the Israelite Woman prays that peace will descend on Israel. Her air ‘So shall the lute and harp awake’ is a delight, the references to the musical instruments of heaven inspiring Handel in much the same way as they did the next year in ‘Oh had I Jubal’s lyre’. The extended middle section provides lyrical contrast to the light jollity of the outer sections, full of neat runs and the glorious harmonic sequences which made Handel’s writing so immediately attractive and accessible to his audiences.

A breathless alto messenger brings the good news from Capharsalama that Judas has routed the enemy in their thousands (elephants and all!) and, introduced by a second messenger, the hero enters Jerusalem in triumph. In 1748 ‘See the conqu’ring hero comes’ had not yet been written, and the music moved straight into ‘Sing unto God’, but the huge success of the chorus when premiered in Joshua the next year ensured its immediate inclusion for ever after. Handel’s procession is headed by a ‘Chorus of Youths’ (accompanied by organ and two obbligato horns), followed by a ‘Chorus of Virgins’ (flutes and organ). For the third verse the whole orchestra and choir combine, with the military drummer instructed to play ‘ad libitum, the second time warbling’ [ie tremelo]. The lively March that follows (originally placed in Act II) was borrowed from a keyboard piece in Georg Muffat’s Componimenti of 1735.

The chorus ‘Sing unto God’ is an example of Handel’s ceremonial writing at its best: this is a chorus which could just as easily be from one of the Coronation Anthems. In the bright key of D two soloists joyfully start the movement before the choral and orchestral forces combine, the block chords of ‘Sing unto God’ alternating with Handel’s inimitable runs, all punctuated by triumphant trumpet fanfares. Judas, magnanimous in victory, orders a halt to the celebrations whilst warriors are decently buried. Morell gets near the ridiculous in his special mention of Eleazar: apparently going one better than Acis (whom we remember was crushed beneath Polyphemus’s stone), this warrior hero ‘triumphed in a glorious death’, squashed in battle under a fallen elephant! Judas’s air ‘With honour let desert be crown’d’ is remarkable for its use of a trumpet obbligato in A minor—one of very few pieces in the eighteenth century for the instrument written in a minor key, and certainly Handel’s only example. If ever proof was needed of the skill of eighteenth century trumpeters (for the aria stayed in each performance for ten years), here would be a good example.

Eupolomeus, the Jewish Ambassador to Rome, returns from a diplomatic mission to the Senate with the news that the Romans have agreed to protect Israel from further attacks. The chorus celebrate with a gentle hymn ‘To our great God be all the honour giv’n’, its sentiments enhanced by the use of a minor key. The Israelite Woman’s air, ‘O lovely peace’ brings in a pastoral mood: two flutes add their distinctive colours to the string texture, and Handel’s use of a drone bass and a gently rocking rhythm creates a delightfully tranquil scene. The scoring of the middle section, with ‘nature’s songsters’ twittering away in the violins, is glorious: Israel is now firmly at peace.

It is left to Simon to introduce the final chorus, with a marvellous air, joyful yet noble, ‘Rejoice, oh Judah’. The choir enter fugally with their ‘Halleluia’ and then, in inspired writing, so do the trumpets, now stretching the first syllable of their Halleluia over nearly two bars. The full forces are at work, but Handel saves one more thrilling moment for the massive choral and orchestral chords that underlie ‘And in songs divine, harmonious join’. Little wonder when William Shenstone’s steward spoke for the masses in enthusing ‘with such ecstacy of the music’. Handel’s pocket was once again full, English pride restored—but did anyone spare a thought for the poor Scots?

Robert King © 1992

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