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A splendid recording

ReviewHandel’s spectacular oratorio Belshazzar was composed in 1744, from a libretto by Charles Jennens that describes the fall of Babylon. Less successful in it’s day than the popular Italian opera, Belshazzar is a work on an imposing scale — dramatic, passionate, full of stirring choruses and solos, and a piece which Handel himself described as ‘very grand and uncommon’. The oratorio is full of invention, energy and drama with the Jewish, Babylonian Persian and Medes masses having their own distinctive musical styles that were juxtaposed to create a tense dramatic conflict. Composed in the same year as the splendid Hercules the two oratorios represent the peak of Handel’s dramatic writing. Belshazzar was a failure at the time of its first performance in 1745—contemporary reports speak of a disastrously bad performance—and the oratorio never gained popularity in Handel’s lifetime. Jürgen Budday is director of church music and artistic director of the concert series at the monastery of Maulbronn, of the cantor choir and of the Maulbronn Chamber Choir. He is one of the leading German conductors of historical and modern vocal music, and his previous concert recordings have received international acclaim, including thos of the Handel oratorios Jephtha, Samson, Judas Maccabaeus, Saul and Belshazzar may be one of Handel’s less performed works but is indisputably one of his finest, as is evident from this splendid recording in which the soloists include Mark Le Broque (Belshazzar), soprano Miriam Allan, countertenor Michael Chance and Patrick van Goethem.


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