Israel in Egypt

MICHAEL DRAKE Norwich Cathedral

MICHAEL DRAKE

> Norwich Cathedral

Not the most often performed of Handel's oratorios, but with text from the Bible and the Psalms, it is a powerful work.

The Tallis Chamber Choir – with the assistance of Norwich Cathedral Girls' Choir and the largely East Anglian Alexander Players (led by John McLeod), and conducted by the choir's founder, Philip Simms – always gave precedence to the musical ingenuity.

Although, from my seat half-way down the nave the performance had a remoteness (which in other circumstances I might have called spirituality).

The first of the three distinctive parts, Lament-ations was full of melancholy and emphatically stated. It immediately showed the choir's great vocal balance, perfectly matched orchestrally.

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The unaccompanied Their Bodies are Buried in Peace (with its visions of Since by man came death) was in this section given an especially reverent feeling.

The whole work is virtually one episodic chorus and the following Exodus part was sung with much colour and drama in the descriptions of the various plagues.

Soloists take minor parts in the action, many being introduced for popularity with the first listeners, but despite being largely hidden from view Patrizia Kwella and Deborah Stoddart (sopranos), counter-tenor James Bowman, Ian Partridge (tenor) and baritone Stephen Roberts enhanced the narrative.

The final Moses Song is a long declaration of victory and built to a powerful climatic chorus but in whatever musical form, singers and instrumentalists matched the requirements entirely with conviction.

It was a story graphically told.

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