Belshazzar (complete oratorio)

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Belshazzar (complete oratorio)
Allan Clayton, Rosemary Joshua, Iestyn Davies / Les Arts Florissants, William Christie

[ Les Arts Florissants Editions / 3 CD Box Set ]

Release Date: Friday 20 June 2014

This item is currently out of stock. We expect to be able to supply it to you within 2 - 4 weeks from when you place your order.

A new label by an Artist for the Artists; an outstanding first release.

"Belshazzar was first performed in 1745, under difficult conditions. Ever the pragmatist, Handel did not hesitate to revise his work to adapt to the various constraints of the premiere and its subsequent revivals. Surprisingly unscrupulous, he frequently accepted the most dreadful compromises involving mutilating cuts, transpositions, sacrificing his inspiration in order to facilitate a performance. For this recording we have chosen what we consider to be the most successful of the various versions of Belshazzar given in his lifetime, resulting in the restoration of the piece in all its splendour, with the best of the music and a coherent libretto. I am particularly pleased that the first production for our new label does justice to a libretto whose subject is so relevant today: the decline of a once glorious society and the ephemeral nature of Empire. In Belshazzar everything hits the spot: the emotional power, the vivid imagery, the contemporary resonance. How could one not be struck by the majestic architecture of the choruses; by the characterisation of Belshazzar himself, irascible, alcoholic, affronting the divine word? Andwho could not be deeply moved by Nicrotis'grief at witnessing the downfall of her son, or by the extraordinary complicity that develops between herself and Cyrus, the conquering King of the persians? From beginning to end the piece is carried along by Jennen's humanity and the universality of Handel's music. I have opted for a very fine and entirely Anglophone cast. All of us had our hearts set on restoring the dramatic force and emotional power to this magnificent music. Other considerations influenced our choice - the very scale of Belshazzar made it possible to draw on a large number of musicians and singers who have been part of Les Arts Florissants for many ears, ensuring the recording bears the unmistakeable stamp of the company" William Christie

Bonus Essay by Jean Echenoz: In Babylon

A specially commissioned work which draws the reader deep into the ancient, majestic city, the seat of power of Belshazzar the King. Printed apart on special paper and included in the boxset, alongside the regular booklet.

"Here is an orchestral sound of defiant grandeur expressive and uninhibited choral singing, an energy suggestive of live performance, and a quirky balance that highlights a sinuous viola line here, a pop of bassoon there… with a vivid timbral and dynamic range… the whole is so dynamic as to raise the Handelian bar." (BBC Music Magazine, Christmas 2013)

"[Clayton's] characterisation astutely descends from carefree charm to self-destructive sneering...sweetly compassionate singing from Iestyn Davies...Hulcup is ideally authoritative and articulate as the Persian monarch Cyrus...The choir of Les Arts Florissants acquit themselves with full honours in Handel's imaginative dramatic narrative choruses" (Gramophone Magazine, December 2013)