Jeptha: Comp (Eng)
Hérité de Carissimi, l'oratorio a été transformé par le génie de Haendel en un genre typiquement britannique, plus dramatique que religieux, et dont le culte se perpétue jusqu'à nos jours, à la faveur des festivals. Ces compositions constituent probablement le meilleur de son oeuvre et jouent en Angleterre le rôle de l'opéra national presque inexistant dans ce pays. La réalisation de John Eliot Gardiner est magnifique, car la dimension dramatique de l'ouvrage est très bien rendue. --Lina Patch
Top Customer Reviews
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
John Eliot Gardiner's 1988 recording remains, even after these many years, the pre-eminent recording of this Oratorio. His leads are well-chosen: Nigel Robson, Michael Chance, Anne Sofie von Otter, Lynne Dawson and Stephen Varcoe; accomplished singers all! Gardiner is an interventionist conductor, very responsive to the needs of the drama. His dramatic reading of the work helps his soloists give far more dramatically intense readings. It helps that Nigel Robson in the title role has a voice which can be steely and heroic and he uses this to great effect - his performance of 'Open thy marble jaws, O tomb' is instructive, moving and dramatically credible.
The plot of Jephtha is based on Chapter 11 of the book of Judges in the bible and as usual Handel has chosen well; for the story is highly dramatic and exciting thruout. Jephtha was disinherited by his half-brothers but eventually became a great warrior. Many years later his brothers came to him and asked him to defeat the Ammonites who were attacking the Israelites. He agreed to do so providing that he would then become their leader. Before the battle he agrees to sacrifice to God the first person that comes out of his home after the battle. He wins the battle and upon arriving home his only daughter comes out to greet him and therefore is slated to be the sacrifice. Then Handel changes the ending and an angel comes down from heaven and tells her that her life is not required but her virginity will remain her whole life. Everybody is happy, of course, except for her betrothed!
This recording is one of John Eliot Gardiners'masterpieces. The singers are absolutely marvelous in their roles displaying much virtuosity and suitable emotions. There are so many highly dramatic situations in this oratorio which provide so many opportunities for Handel to display his many creative abilities both chorally and instrumentally. And the arias are exquisite! Michael Chance is stunning in the role of Hamor (Jephtha's chief commander and Iphis's betrothed). His arias come forth as if by magic with note after beautiful note. Anne Sofie von Otter in the role of Iphis has never sounded better!!!. Nigel Robson(tenor)was outstanding in the role of Jephtha as was Stephen Varcoe (bass) in the role of Zebul.
"Jephtha" was Handel's farewell to oratorio, and his last work of any importance. But his legacy is sufficient to keep us entertained for our lifetime.
There are excellent and ample liner notes as well as the complete text in English, German, French & Italian.
Is this Handel's greatest oratorio? That might be an idle question. What we do know is that Jephtha is Handel's last oratorio, and indeed the last of his major works. Aging Handel at this point seems to have submitted to Alexander Pope's philosophy of fatalism. From the last scene (Scene 4) of the second act, following Jephtha's accompagnato, the chorus ends with the final verdict: "Whatever is, is right." Within a few minutes, Handel allows the music to modulate endlessly to create a strikingly unsettling effect. This is, for me, one of the highlights showing Handel's genius at its pinnacle.(*1)
This performance was recorded live from 1988 Internationale Händel-Festspiele Göttingen. It does this masterpiece great justice. Gardiner and his forces (English Baroque Soloists and Monteverdi Choir) imbue intensity and urgency into every measure of the music, without losing the textual clarity whenever called for. The soloist line-up is excellent, without any weak link and with much to admire.(*2) The recorded sound is vivid and clear with very good dynamic range, only very occasionally sounding a tiny bit harsh.
The booklet includes the complete sung-text in English and in German translation. Three essays by Winton Dean, Jean-Francois Labie and Lothar Hoffmann-Erbrecht in English, French and German respectively. My French and German are not adequate, but the notes by renowned Handel expert Winton Dean is a pleasure to read as always.
Very highly recommended.
(*1) This seems quite rare in Handel's music. -- Expert's comment/correction is greatly appreciated.
(*2) Michael Chance (Hamor), Lynn Dawson (Iphis) and Anne Sofie von Otter (Storgé) are clearly the stars, but Nigel Robson's Jephtha, Stephen Varcoe's Zebul and Ruth Holton's Angel are good too.