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Saul, in concert

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St John's Smith SquareSmith Square, London, London, Greater London, SW1P 3HA, United Kingdom
On Saturday 23 June 2018 at 19:30
Nicholas HoughtonBasso Continuo
Lesley-Jane RogersSoprano
Margaret McDonaldMezzo-soprano
James PlattBass
David StoutBaritone
Pro Arte
Camden Choir

Handel’s much-loved oratorio, composed in 1738, dramatizes the Old Testament story of King Saul’s conflict with the Philistines, his relationship with the boy champion David, and his jealousy of the friendship between David and Saul’s son, Jonathan. It culminates in a great battle between the Israelites and Philistines in which Jonathan and Saul are killed, and in David’s accession to the throne of Israel.

By focussing on Saul’s later years, Handel and his librettist, Charles Jennens, arguably presented a distorted historical account: earlier, Saul had heroically led the tribes of Israel to many victories. But this approach enabled Jennens to cast Saul in the character of a tragic ruler, consumed with hatred and jealousy, and to construct a tight-knit narrative, which cleverly explores the intricate relationships between Saul and the other principal characters.

All this is captured by Handel in some of his finest music, including the celebrated Dead March and David’s lament for Jonathan. Handel conceived this work on the grandest scale, utilising some unusual instruments for the period, including a carillon (a bell-like keyboard instrument), three trombones and large kettle drums (which he borrowed from the Tower of London for the first performance).

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