Handel: Belshazzar

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Handel
LABELS: Teldec Das Alte Werk
WORKS: Belshazzar
PERFORMER: Robert Tear, Felicity Palmer, Maureen Lehane, Paul Esswood, Peter van der Bilt; Stockholm Chamber Choir, Concentus Musicus Wien/ Nikolaus Harnoncourt
CATALOGUE NO: 0630-10275-2 ADD (1976)
Although intended for concert performance, the dramatic action of Belshazzar is vividly explicit. Stage directions abound and without at least imagined action, some passages are meaningless.

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Harnoncourt’s soloists wholeheartedly inhabit this theatre of the mind during Belshazzar’s duet with his mother, a brilliant stroke of contrasting characterisation, and then when alone, drunk and debauched, ‘his knees knocking against each other’, he sees the disembodied hand writing his fate upon the wall. Only the chorus fails to convince: they are too genteel for roistering Babylonians and martial Persians, though touching as oppressed Jews.

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The digitally remastered sound is a touch hard and is worth modifying with a judicious tweak of filter. George Pratt