The Sixteen / Harry Christophers

Handel: Jephtha

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AllMusic Review by

Jephtha (1751) was Handel's last oratorio. It does not have quite the dramatic sweep of Messiah or Israel in Egypt, but it contains many moments equal to anything in Handel. These include the choruses, several of which are among the most dramatically effective fugues ever composed. One attractive feature of this excellent recording of the oratorio under the directorship of Harry Christophers is that these choruses are crystal clear in texture, with all the words intelligible: hard enough for the soloists, who likewise won't have you turning to the booklet, and well-nigh remarkable for a chorus. Christophers' group the Sixteen consists of 18 members here, plus an orchestra of 30, so this is a fairly sizable performance by current standards. At no time does the performance feel bulky or anything other than perfectly under control. Best of all are the soloists, who get the dramatic best out of the story. The oratorio is based on the story of Jephtha in the Book of Judges, who swore if granted victory to sacrifice the first creature he met. Unfortunately that turns out to be his daughter, Iphis. Unlike in the Bible, the oratorio's libretto by the Rev. Thomas Morell provides a deus ex machina in the form of an angel, but that leaves plenty of histrionics for tenor James Gilchrist in the title role. Especially effective are Sophie Bevan in the role of Iphis and countertenor Robin Blaze as her boyfriend, Hamor, but really there is not a weak spot in this performance, honed by several live realizations in front of a demanding Barbican crowd in London. A strong candidate for any Handel library.

Track Listing - Disc 1

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
Jeptha
1 7:30
2 4:17
3 2:43
4 4:45
5 5:01
6 3:44
7 3:36
8 6:40
9 2:00
10 4:16
11 4:57
12 3:43
13 5:14

Track Listing - Disc 2

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
Jeptha
1 1:18
2 3:16
3 4:07
4 5:13
5 5:55
6 2:31
7 1:08
8 4:18
9 4:52
10 1:08
11 2:18
12 2:10
13 3:12
14 1:15
15 3:50
16 3:17
17 7:26

Track Listing - Disc 3

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
Jeptha
1 2:42
2 5:18
3 5:33
4 3:55
5 2:39
6 5:15
7 1:01
8 3:16
9 2:38
10 2:46
11 5:26
12 3:50
13 3:49
14 4:01
blue highlight denotes track pick