Dec 11, 2013

A Tafelmusik Milestone: Handel's Saul

Handel's Saul

It is with a sense of great anticipation and excitement that we present Handel's epic oratorio Saul later this season. Over the years Tafelmusik has made the artistic commitment to explore Handel's great oratorios. We've shared the glorious music of Solomon, Deborah, Israel in Egypt, Hercules, and of course Messiah with our "Tafel-audience". And now we fulfill a personal dream of mine to present his most lavish oratorio, Saul.

In the spring of 1737, amidst the increasing stress of artistic and financial difficulties due to box-office failures, fickle and noncommittal audiences, and rival opera companies, Handel suffered a paralytic stroke, losing use of his right arm. He could not write or play. A broken man, he travelled to Aix-la-Chapelle to take the cure at its famous sulphur baths. After two months Handel was completely cured in mind and body - it was considered a miracle. He returned to London in the autumn full of energy and optimism.

It was also the beginning of a new collaboration with Charles Jennens, who was to provide Handel with libretti for a number of oratorios, most notable Messiah.  Jennens presented Handel with an irresistible project - the biblical story of King Saul and David - a tale filled with drama, pageantry, witches and ghosts, suspicion, jealousy, and madness. By the autumn of 1738 Handel's new oratorio Saul was complete. It was written on a scale never seen before in London, scored for a large orchestra that included such "exotic" instruments as a harp, double-sized kettledrums (especially borrowed fromt the Tower of London), trombones, and a sort of carillon - this last devised and built according to Handel's specifications to present King Saul's madness. Handel pulls out all the stops, as it were, to present the panoply and spectacle of the story of the youthful David's triumphal return from slaying Goliath, and King Saul's ensuing jealousy, rage, madness and death,

Handel's Saul accomplishes precisely what he intended to achieve to resuscitate his musical career - the drama, pathos, and excitement of Italian opera in a truly English oratorio. The psychological and emotional machinations of the human mind and heart are set against a backdrop of the sweeping spectacle of history.

This is truly a milestone for Tafelmusik and features an absolutely outstanding cast. I hope you'll join us for this very special occasion!

- Ivars Taurins, Director, Tafelmusik Chamber Choir