Belshazzar (HWV 61) is an oratorio by George Frideric Handel. The libretto was by Charles Jennens, and Handel abridged it considerably. Jennens' libretto was based on the Biblical account of the fall of Babylon at the hands of Cyrus the Great and the subsequent freeing of the Jewish nation, as found in the Book of Daniel.
Handel composed Belshazzar in the late Summer of 1744 concurrently with Hercules, during a time that Winton Dean calls "the peak of Handel's creative life".The work premiered the following Lenten season on 27 March 1745 at the King's Theatre, London.The work fell into neglect after Handel's death, with revivals of the work occurring in the United Kingdom in 1847, 1848 and 1873.With the revival of interest in Baroque music and historically informed musical performance since the 1960s, Belsahzzar receives performances in concert form today and is also sometimes fully staged as an opera.
The Augsburger Domsingknaben, or boy singers of Augsburg Cathedral, have a claim to be the perfect group to interpret the music of the south German composer Hans Leo Hassler, a student of Andrea Gabrieli whose music straddles the Renaissance and Baroque eras. The young choristers come from the same area where the music originated, and, like some of the English cathedral choirs, they have a history going back to the middle of the last millennium (although not quite so continuous).
The Book of Genesis tells us that in the beginning was the Word and that the Word was sound. But what if it was music? What if God, in contemplating the creation of Creation, sang being into being? If so, it might have sounded something like the Sacred Songs of Valentin Silvestrov. In this seventh ECM album devoted to the Ukrainian composer’s music, we thusly encounter a sense of space unique to the Russian liturgy: the more the voices unify in movement, the more they lift from one another like temporary tattoos, leaving behind mirror images that wash away with baptism into infinite oneness with the Holy Spirit. Sin as sun. Firmament as fundament.
A new live recording of Bach’s Lutheran Mass in F Major (BWV223), Cantata "Süßer Trost, mein Jesus kömmt (BWV 151) and Magnificat in E flat (BWV243a), recorded in London at the end of a European tour in December 2016.
This anthology of devotional music from 18th-century Venice and Naples offers an interesting and varied programme. Best known is Pergolesi’s Stabat mater, but the settings by Domenico Scarlatti and Bononcini stand well in comparison. The motets by Lotti, Caldara and Alessandro Scarlatti are real discoveries; Norrington’s performances of the latter are particularly fine. Guest’s Pergolesi suffers from a focus of sound which makes the interpretation seem somewhat generalised. However, all these performances give pleasure, while the music is melodically fresh and rhythmically vital.-Terry Barfoot