Handel: Judas Maccabaeus
- Winchester College New HallCecelia Osmond - soprano Frances Bourne - mezzo soprano Christine Targett - contralto David Bates - counter tenor Nicholas Mulroy - tenor Alex Ashworth - bass Winchester Music Club and Orchestra David Morris - leader James Weeks - conductor Download concert programme Review by Derek Beck Acoustically friendly New Hall hosted an exciting interpretation of Handel's late oratorio 'Judas Maccabaeus' by the choir and orchestra of Winchester Music Club. With lines such as "we follow thee to conquest....for laws, religion, liberty" and "with honour let desert be crown'd", it was fitting that the programme booklet claimed musical merit and not political topicality for the choice of this piece. Handel's facility with notes certainly exceeds Dr Morell's doggerel verse and we were treated to great drama by all concerned. James Weeks had thoroughly prepared the large chorus and conducted with obvious verve and a fine sense of pace across two hours of music. Commitment, energy and appropriate weight of tone marked the well-balanced choral singing with only minor slips in ensemble. Chorus member Christine Targett joined the female soloists to initiate "See the conquering hero comes". Throughout, WMC was well served by a superb team of young professional singers who each demonstrated technical precision, mature stylistic awareness (with tasteful but never obtrusive ornamentation) and a keen feeling for the work's operatic mood swings. Cecelia Osmond's bell-like soprano and Frances Bourne's rich mezzo balanced beautifully in their various duets and counter-tenor David Bates presented both Priest and Messenger with confident theatricality. The eponymous hero fittingly gained courage in Part 2 as Nicholas Mulroy applied his considerable agility more assuredly to the role. As Judas' brother Simon, Alex Ashworth was an awesome presence in stature and noble voice. All the soloists were supported by a distinguished continuo team of Ben Bayl (harpsichord), James Sherlock (organ), Chris Suckling (cello) and Barry Glynn (bass). A very competent orchestra led by David Morris filled the stage and if the string section was unnecessarily large it lost nothing in clean ensemble and responsiveness to James Weeks' admirable direction.