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The return to the catalogue of this 2000 recording of Willem de Fesch’s oratorio Joseph (1745) is to be welcomed. The leading Dutch composer and violin virtuoso of the 18th century, De Fesch was a contemporary and colleague of Handel in London, after relocating to the city in 1730. In the 1740s, when Handel was at his height as an oratorio composer, De Fesch, who often led Handel’s orchestra, composed his own oratorio on the Old Testament story of Joseph and his brothers, which had also inspired Handel. De Fesch’s oratorio, while obviously indebted to Handel’s example, is nevertheless a more compact musical account of the story, with few choruses, and arias that are generally shorter than many of Handel’s. Joseph is not short on drama, and the theatrical element is well captured by Jed Wentz and his well-schooled forces on this stylish period-instrument performance. Excellent soloists right across the cast and some virtuosic playing make this CD set well worth investigating, not least as an alternative example to Handel’s pre-eminence in mid 18th-century London.

PHILIP REED Read the full review on Agora Classica

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