It’s vain to pretend that Alexander’s Feast is a masterpiece but it doesn’t deserve obscurity, so the University of Birmingham Choir and Orchestra, and their conductor Colin Timms, should be praised for dusting it down and presenting a lively and enjoyable performance.
If it lacks dramatic cogency there are many incidental beauties in a work based on Dryden’s poetic paean to music’s power.
Sopranos Jenny Carson and Hannah McFarland excelled – the latter’s honey-toned Softly sweet, in Lydian measures, where Handel supports the singer with a solo cello, was captivating. Robert Gardiner handled the tenor part’s demanding florid runs with aplomb and George Humphreys made the most of the work’s famous bass aria Revenge, Timotheus cries.
Handel filled out the relatively short work with concertos for harp and orchestra and here we had the first movement of each performed stylishly by, respectively, Bethany Spicer and Charlie Penn.
There was sterling work from the chorus too – with The many rend the skies notable for its verve.