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Handel: Belshazzar

- Winchester College New Hall

Katherine Bond – soprano
Nick Pepin – counter tenor
Stewart Conley-Harper – counter tenor
Kevin Kyle – tenor
James Gower – bass

Winchester Music Club and Orchestra
Brian Howells – leader

Nicholas Wilks – conductor

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Review

from the Hampshire Chronicle Music Diary by Eric and Joan Wood

Winchester Music Club is to be congratulated both for its courage in presenting Handel’s rarely performed oratorio, Belshazzar, in New Hall, and for the high standards achieved. For this long work, which presents all the participants with moments of considerable difficulty, the librettist, Charles Jennens, who also collaborated in Messiah, supplied the composer with a text drawn from the Bible and other sources.

Handel’s music reflects the varying moods superbly, with emphasis on the omnipotence of God, even in the vivid banqueting scenes. Choir, orchestra and soloists were all on excellent form and, directed by Nicholas Wilks, this performance, in the new Novello Choral Edition, was made possible through the support of the Friends of Winchester Music Club and Winchester College. Following the orchestra’s crisp account of the Overture, soprano Katherine Bond (Nitocris) gave a well-projected and dramatic accompanied recitative, setting the scene for the story that was to unfold. The precise firm attack of the chorus in scene II was typical of all their committed response to the clear direction of Mr Wilks. The clarityof the fugal close to scene III act I was a good example of judicious detachment employed to telling effect. Nick Pepin, Stewart Conley-Harper (counter-tenors) both projected well in stylish phrases, as did Kevin Kyle (tenor) and James Gower (bass).

Attempts to get away from the well-tried, small group of popular choral works are always welcome, and it is to be hoped that Winchester Music Club, encouraged by this performance, will continue to show a venturesome spirit in the not too distant future.