Can you name a Handel oratorio other than the Messiah? It’s a bit difficult because its popularity casts a shadow on the nearly thirty other oratorios. A quick scan of the list and you’ll notice that he often set the story of Biblical male figures. A notable one was Saul, king of Israel, whose jealousy of his successor David leads to his own undoing.
Based on the Book of Daniel, Belshazzar, king of Babylon, is the title character within the story relating to the fall of Babylon and the freeing of the Jews. You may be familiar with its librettist Charles Jennens, who also provided the text for Messiah. The oratorio was premiered at the King’s Theatre in London on March 27, 1745.
The story of Hercules was so attractive that Handel composed two different oratorios on the strong man’s life. The earlier one, simply entitled “Hercules,” includes a number of characters such as his second wife Dejanira. As the saying goes, behind every man is a strong woman, like Dejanira, who takes a prominent role within the oratorio.
Premiered in 1744, Joseph and His Brethren takes place sometime after the title character’s brothers have sold him into slavery. Following the Biblical story closely, the oratorio comes to a happy conclusion with a brotherly reconciliation.
Our new release of the week comes to us from the Billiant Classics label. Dutch cellist Jaap ter Linden and harpsichordist Lars-Ulrik Mortensen are featured in a program of Francesco Geminiani’s complete cello sonatas, op. 5.
Here’s a video of Les Art Florissants (William Christie, dir.) performing the overture from Handel’s oratorio “Hercules”: