Overture: Andante – Allegro moderato
The Overture begins, Andante, in a gloomy E flat minor using the oratorio’s opening number, the lamenting chorus of the enslaved Israelites on the banks of the Euphrates near Babylon, ‘Gott unsrer Väter, hör die Bitten’ (‘God of our fathers, hear our prayer’). A vigorous theme in the major launches the Allegro moderato before the march of the victorious Persian army is introduced, featuring a piccolo and side drum. This march theme recurs as a leitmotif during the oratorio, most significantly in the ‘fall of Babylon’ scene. One unusual feature of the overture’s orchestration is that, although Spohr uses a large orchestra including four horns and three trombones, he omits the timpani, perhaps seeking a more brassy, brazen Old Testament sound.
from notes by Keith Warsop © 2010
Chairman, Spohr Society of Great Britain