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This splendid performance of Handel’s Belshazzar is Les Arts Florissants’ first release on their own label. The oratorio, which recounts the fall of Babylon to the Persian king Cyrus, flopped in Handel’s lifetime and, although it boasts some magnificent arias and choruses, it has rarely been heard since. The music even redeems the prescriptive religiosity that drives Charles Jennens’ libretto; Handel’s sympathetic insight into human emotions lends more nuance to the characters and more subtlety to the action, as in the ravishing duet between Nitocris and Cyrus or the dramatic feast scene in which Belshazzar sees the disembodied handwriting on the wall – Handel’s chilling adagio e staccato violin quavers have been imitated on scores of horror film soundtracks! The soloists, who include Rosemary Joshua, Iestyn Davies and Allan Clayton, sing superbly, while Les Arts Florissants and William Christie do sumptuous justice to the music’s grandeur and beauty. A triumphant debut!

Graham Lock Read the full review on Agora Classica

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Early Music Today, 2013 - ©Rhinegold Publishing