A passionate, light and bouncy performance by Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment directed by Laurence Cummings. Handel's Judas Maccabaeus includes “See, the conqu’ring hero comes!” (No 58) and “the other” Hallelujah! chorus.
Handel's Judas Maccabaeus is a setting of the historical story of the army which seized control of Judea from the Greek-Macedonian Seleucid Empire between 166 and 164 BC and established self-determination for the Israelite people through renowned battles and despite plagues.
Full-length Handel oratorios are not my usual repertoire for enjoyment but one opportunity the promenade season ticket gives me is to try out the unfamiliar and I don't regret tonight’s outing. The Choir and Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment gave clear, light performances of Handel’s music, never dragging, never ponderous.
Laurence Cummings directed from the podium and shared his obvious passion about the piece with the players and soloists. Laurence Cummings also played continuo harpsichord, adding ornamentation to the full-time continuo - it’s not clear from the programme whether this was Christopher Bucknall or David Gordon. Laurence Cummings played standing up and was on many occasions conducting with one hand and playing the harpsichord with the other.
I enjoyed immensely the performances of each and all of the soloists, the clarity of performance and the partnering with each other and the instruments were delightful though John Mark Ainsley did have a distracting tendency to sing the first part of his line in to his copy of the score and then look up to complete his line.
I enjoyed discussions before and during the interval with a couple of choral singers, also promenading. They pointed out some of the quaint wordings in Thomas Morel's text: what is a “pious orgy” and how does one get invited? (No 7, Air). And the glorious story of the battle elephants in No 57. Plus an unexpected encounter in the interval with a colleague from Birmingham who came along and joined the day promenade ticket queue on the off chance.
Handel: Judas Maccabaeus
John Mark Ainsley, tenor (Judas Maccabaeus)
Alastair Miles, bass (Simon/Eupolemus)
Rosemary Joshua, soprano (Israelitish Woman)
Christine Rice, mezzo-soprano, New Generation Artist (Israelitish Man)
Tim Mead, counter-tenor (Israelitish Messenger/Israelitish Priest)
Choir of the Enlightenment
Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment
Laurence Cummings; director