On Monday night, leap day, American Bach Soloists, conducted by Jeffrey Thomas, presented Handel's Alexander's Feast at the Davis Community Church in Davis. I was somewhat confused by the program which interspersed the usual text references with Concerto listings. So a concerto has words? No no. One hears that concerts in the long ago interspersed arias between movements of a symphony. This concert interspersed concertos between the sections of an oratorio. Roughly like this:
Alexander's Feast, or The Power of Music
Anna Gorbachyova, soprano
Aaron Sheehan, tenor
William Sharp, baritone
Chorus of 20 voices.
Halfway through the first half came:
Concerto in B-Flat for Harp
Maria Christina Cleary, harp
Then more sections for the oratorio followed by intermission.
Concerto Grosso in C Major
The concertino consisted of two violins and a cello: Elizabeth Blumenstock, violin, Jude Ziliak, violin, and William Skeen, cello. A concerto grosso consists of a small group of players which contrasts with the full orchestra.
The concert concluded with the final section of the Oratorio.
I remember how much I objected to The Rape of Lucretia because of its in my mind unsuccessful attempt to mix pagan events with Christian morality, thereby completely missing the pagan importance of the story. This oratorio was far more successful. I tells the story of Alexander's conquest of the Persians and the celebration afterward which concludes with the burning of Persepolis. The Greeks are roused to revenge on the Persians through the singing of Timotheus.
Then the English nation thanks Cecilia for bring to them a different power of music. "He rais'd a Mortal to the Skies, She drew an Angel down." It ends with a chorus in praise of Saint Cecilia.
This was an excellent concert. Nothing else by Handel has choruses that sound anything like Messiah, an impossible piece. The instrumentation was rich and varied, the virtuosos virtuosic, the chorus powerful, the singers exciting.
I neglected to review a recent concert by Philharmonia Baroque because the quality was not up to snuff. This never happens with American Bach Soloists.