~ HWV 61 ~

K&K Verlagsanstalt
Edition Kloster Maulbronn
ISBN 3-930643-00-0
2 CDs
full price
Recorded in 2004
Released in 2005

Nitocris: Miriam Allan, soprano
Daniel: Michael Chance, countertenor
Cyrus: Patrick van Goethem, countertenor
Belshazzar, Arioch: Marc LeBrocq, tenor
Gobrias, Messenger: André Morsch, bass

Hannoversche Hofkapelle (on period instruments)
Maulbronn Kammerchor
Conductor: Jürgen Budday

(Recorded at the Klosterkirche Maulbronn.)





This is, by my reckoning, the sixth in a series of Handel oratorios recorded in live performance at the Maulbronn Monastery and released by German label K & K Verlagsanstalt.  Some of these offerings (Solomon, Saul) have been reviewed on these pages, with the observation that they are respectable but far from essential. This recent release also fills that description. It has also been observed that previous recordings have been abridged to fit on two discs; in this instance, the second version of 1751 which omits, among other things, the first scene of the 1745 performance, is chosen to serve the same function.

Belshazzar is a highly dramatic work, and this recording really does not start well. Tempi are slowish, indeed sluggish, and the singers do not seem to be highly involved. In the second act however, with the writing on the wall scene, the performance does seem to fire up, and becomes rather more involving. In no way however does it compare with the recent release with Peter Neumann conducting, nor with the older Pinnock version.

This is also true of the singers. Tenor Mark le Brocq in the title role has something of a ring to his voice, but his intonation is not totally accurate throughout. The hero Cyrus is sing by alto Patrick van Goethem, who is rather better suited to David, as can be heard on the Neumann recording.  The latter role here is portrayed by Michael Chance, not now singing in his prime and indeed there is audible strain evident. André Morsch is serviceable as Gobrias, but I think we might have done without the funny voice as Arioch the messenger.

Perhaps the most interesting singing comes from young soprano Miriam Allan. There is something of a dramatic problem here, in that she sounds far too young to be the mother of Belshazzar. That apart, her clear accurate singing is a delight, with an arresting cadenza in ‘Regard, oh son’.  The Maulbronner Kammerchor presents a tidy chorus, with adequate diction; the conducting is generally on the safe side, as indicated.

These recordings seem to be only available by mail order from their website, which means they have to be sought out.  It is hard to suggest anyone other than completists would bother, given the superior alternative choices.

© Sandra Bowdler - March 2006

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