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Louis Spohr’s last oratorio, The Fall of Babylon, set a libretto by his friend Edward Taylor, written at the composer’s request. Unfamiliar with the English language, Spohr had it translated into German, which seems to have produced a more concise version (to the relief of this reviewer – I cannot imagine any English choir having to sing about a ‘glowing bosom’ without falling about, which gives you an indication of the text!). It tells the familiar biblical story of the oppression of the Jews under the rule of Belshazzar, and that monarch’s downfall at the hands of Cyrus’s Persian army guided by the hand of God.

Constructed in the usual oratorio form, The Fall of Babylon is a mixture of recitative, arias and choruses. There is some effective orchestration and it is to some extent lyrical but restrained, the restraint being prevalent when Belshazzar’s licentious, ungodly court is portrayed. Where the composer excels is in his writing for the military scenes and the joyful choruses praising God; there are also some attractive arias and duets, though nothing particular to stay in the mind.

KonzertChor Braunschweig is a very well trained choir and most of the performers are skilled. I particularly liked the flowing tenor voice of Matthias Stier, but the performance was marred for me by the uncontrolled vibrato of Dirk Schmidt, who sings Cyrus.

SHIRLEY RATCLIFFE Read the full review on Agora Classica


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