Haendel: Judas Maccabaeus
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The oratorio Judas Maccabaeus was written in 1746, five years after Messiah, and was first performed in London at Covent Garden the following year. It quickly became one of Handel's most popular oratorios. It was written to commemorate the victory of William, Duke of Cumberland over Charles Edward Stuart the Pretender at the battle of Culloden on 16th April, 1746. With its warlike story of the triumph of a Jewish hero over invading forces, Judas Maccabaeus formed the ideal victory celebration. Leonardo Garcia Alarcon invests the music with rich emotions and a wholly Italianate baroque vocality.
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The solo singers, orchestra and chorus are well rehearsed and play with a good, but not extreme (i.e. harsh sounds, ultra fast tempi) historically informed approach. This works well in many of the solo airs, which flow nicely and avoid sluggishness. Some of the duets, notably "Oh, Solimah" are very well done. The female leads are quite excellent and sing with fine intonation, style and ornamentation. The men are good, maybe less impressive overall. Overall, it's a stylish, dramatic performance that does the work justice.
The performance space has quite a reverberant acoustic, which muddies the chorus in a number of places, basically anywhere there is fugal or canonic writing--which is often. The soloists don't sound like native speakers of English, and their accents intrude on the enjoyment here and there. The bass especially needs some English diction coaching. The stately Largo that starts the overture is pretty quick, more of an Andante. This undermines the contrast between the Largo and the following Allegro (which is very well played, by the way).
Bottom line: it's a good live performance, but not in the same league with Somary and Mcgegan.