excerpt from 'Musical Reminiscences Past and Present' pp. 57, 58, 60 (546 words)

excerpt from 'Musical Reminiscences Past and Present' pp. 57, 58, 60 (546 words)

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Musical Reminiscences Past and Present

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57, 58, 60


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With Friday, June 29th, came the last day of the Handel Festival, to which I had been looking forward with impatience; for was not this work chosen as a climax to these performances —the sublime Israel in Egypt? It was listened to by 19,000 persons; and never do I remember having heard this glorious oratorio performed with so much power and legitimate effect as on this occasion. The blemishes were so slight that they ought not to be alluded to. The difficulties of the work were overcome with ease by the three or four thousand singers, who had been divided into two grand choirs, and whose individual, as well as united endeavours, produced the most gratifying and satisfying performance. From the beginning of the expressive chorus, “ And the children of Israel sighed,” to the song of Miriam, “ I will sing unto the Lord,” with its continued iteration of Divine glory and judgment, there was an enchanting succession of musical triumphs, never to be obliterated from the heart's tablet of a grateful listener. “ He spake the word ” came out from the army of basses in a unisonous tone of sustained thunder; indeed, the choral power was so overwhelming as to swamp entirely sometimes the rapid demi-semiquaver accom-paniments of the violins, etc. The effect of the “ Hailstone Chorus ” was really overwhelming; and here, again, the giant¬like roll of the basses, and the crashes of chords on the words, “fire,” “hail,” etc., electrified the audience, who insisted upon its repetition. Then that wonderful instance of word-painting, u He sent a thick darkness,” with its sustained chords by the strings and its chromatic progressions for the voices, could only be equalled for its fine execution by the supreme excellence of “ He smote all the firstborn of Egypt ” and “ He led them forth like sheep,” the softly-sustained G’s and D’s in the latter, so delicate and pastoral, being worthy of refined solo singing. But I refrain from saying more, lest my enthusiasm for this noble work by Handel—for it is his as it stands, whatever hypercritics may say of the source of some of his themes—should lead me to weary the reader with any long-drawn out disquisition or critical analysis. The whole work left a deep impression upon my mind, and 1 recall it only to regret that one cannot oftener participate in the musical glory of such a magnificent performance. “ God save the Queen ” having been given with overwhelming effect, loud and well-deserved cheers arose for Sir Michael Costa, who returned to the orchestra to acknowledge the compliment, which had been so heartily and spontaneously accorded to him. Mr. Willing was an efficient organist, and M. Sainton, as chef-ctattaque, rendered good service throughout the Festival; and, with the tender of my best thanks for the kind attention of Mr. Gardiner and the stewards of the Sacred Harmonic Society, I take my leave of the recent Handel Festival, and the pleasant week’s enjoyment it brought in its train, with grateful remembrance, and a hope that we may be spared to participate in many more similar gatherings, and with the same gratifying result.

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excerpt from 'Musical Reminiscences Past and Present' pp. 57, 58, 60 (546 words)


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