Beautiful oratorio on the Israelites escape from Egypt.
“Handel understands effect better than any of us; when he chooses, he strikes like a thunderbolt” Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.
As part of the Oslo Internasjonale Kirkemusikkfestival’s thematic focus on slavery past and present, they showcase one of Handel’s most popular oratorios, Israel in Egypt. The concert is a collaboration with the Italian Accademia Bizantina and the Norwegian Soloists’ Choir and conductor Alessandro Tampieri.
Most of Handel’s sacred oratorios are loosely based on stories from the Old Testament, though Israel in Egypt and Messiah are the only ones that are directly and exclusively based on the biblical texts, without paraphrasing, interpolation or interpretation. The libretto to Israel in Egypt is mainly derived from the Book of Exodus and Psalm 105 and 106 and tells the dramatic story of God calling Moses to bring his people, the Israelites, out of Egypt. The Pharaoh in Egypt will not let the people leave, but when God unleashes a number of natural disasters on Egypt, Moses can lead his people to freedom. They are rescued from the Pharaoh’s army at the shore of the Red Sea when the sea parts, allowing the Israelites to escape. After the people have escaped Egypt, God reveals himself to Moses on Mount Sinai and gives him the ten commandments. The natural disasters, which have a central place in the oratorio, inspired Händel to create some of his most inventive word paintings.
The listener can easily hear hopping frogs, buzzing flies, a hail of fire and grasshoppers. Unlike most of Handel’s other oratorios, Israel in Egypt is almost exclusively a choral work, with relatively few arias for soloists. Instead of revealing the narrative story through the actions of individuals, the work presents and celebrates the story of a people, told through the choir. This was also the reason why the oratorio was not well received by London audiences after its premiere in 1739. Today however, Israel in Egypt one of Handel’s most performed and beloved oratorios, on par with Messiah and Saul. Choir preparation is provided by Yuval Weinberg.