Fabio Biondi / Collegium Vocale / Stavanger Symphony Orchestra

Handel: Jephtha

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AllMusic Review by

Jephtha (1752) was George Frederick Handel's final oratorio, and it was composed during a period of incipient blindness and declining health. Yet the composer's artistic powers were undiminished in this dramatization of the Biblical story, for the arias and choruses are as memorable as any from Handel's earlier works in the genre, including Messiah and Israel in Egypt. This 2008 recording by Fabio Biondi, the Collegium Vocale Ghent, and the Stavanger Symphony Orchestra is a brilliant period presentation, and the spry rhythms, lean counterpoint, clear textures, and distinctive colors of original instruments combine to make this an especially enjoyable performance of a fairly neglected masterpiece. While the account of Jephtha's rash vow to God and subsequent sacrifice of his daughter is one of the most tragic episodes in the Bible, the story was altered here to have a happy ending, so much of the score is filled with joyous and exultent music, and the ensemble is quite upbeat. The vocal soloists offer straightforward delivery with clear diction and natural vocal tone with minimal vibrato, so the singing is wholly appropriate to the Baroque sonorities of the orchestra, though to some ears the style might seem flat and decidedly unoperatic. Collegium Vocale Ghent is a small choir of approximately 20 voices, so the choruses have an immediacy, clarity, and briskness that larger choral ensembles can only envy. This recording has some serious competition, notably in previous renditions by John Eliot Gardiner and Marcus Creed, but because Jephtha is something of a rarity in the catalog, it is worth giving this package a try.

Track Listing - Disc 1

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
Jephtha, HWV 70
1 5:05
2 1:21
3 1:37
4 4:57
5 3:07
6 0:57
7 4:01
8 0:34
9 4:31
10 0:46
11 2:37
12 0:29
13 3:07
14 0:27
15 4:26
16 2:22
17 4:48
18 0:31
19 3:56
20 0:54
21 1:59
22 0:35
23 4:22
24 1:22
25 3:34
26 4:55
27 0:23
28 3:36
29 0:40
30 5:19
31 2:59

Track Listing - Disc 2

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
Jephtha, HWV 70
1 0:47
2 0:23
3 2:04
4 0:27
5 3:09
6 1:13
7 2:06
8 0:24
9 1:54
10 1:57
11 1:28
12 3:08
13 3:02
14 8:49
15 2:23
16 4:33
17 0:39
18 5:24
19 3:18
20 1:16
21 1:14
22 4:01
23 1:00
24 4:00
25 0:31
26 2:05
27 0:18
28 2:09
29 0:32
30 4:51
31 0:22
32 3:46
33 3:58
34 0:47
blue highlight denotes track pick