Handel’s Judas Maccabaeus

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Sunday, December 18, 2011

On this special episode of the Choral Mix, we honor Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights. We will explore selections from George Frideric Handel’s Judas Maccabaeus, which celebrates the restoration of the temple in Jerusalem from the Romans.

Handel, a master at oratorio, composed this work of three acts in 1747, and conducted it more than 40 times. The full length of the oratorio is similar in nature to that of the Messiah, and runs in its completion for over two hours. It was a marvelous success in its day specifically because of its favorable depiction of Judas Maccabaeus, son of a Jewish priest.

Listen for tympany and trumpet fanfare as the temple is reclaimed, setting the stage for the menorah to be lit for 8 days and nights.



Judas Maccabeus

George Frederic Handel

Oratorio in Three Acts, in English

Libretto by Thomas Morell


Heather Harper, soprano (Israelite Woman)

Helen Watts, contralto (Israelite Man)

Alexander Young, tenor (Judas Maccabeaus)

John Shirley-Quirk, baritone (Simon)


English Chamber Orchestra

Amor Artis Chorale, John McCarthy, chorus master

Wandsworth School Boys Choir, Russell Burgess, director


Johannes Somary, conductor


Vanguard Classics


CD 1




7. Chorus, Israelites

O Father, whose almighty power

8. Recitative, Simon

I feel, I feel the Deity within

9. Aria, Simon

Arm, Arm, ye brave!


14. Chorus, Israelites

Leah on, lead on!

15. Recitative, Judas

So willed my father, now at rest

16. Male Chorus, Israelite Men

Disdainful of danger, we’ll rush on the foe

20. Chorus, Israelites

Hear us, oh Lord, on Thee we call




21. Chorus, Israelites

Fallen is the foe; so fall Thy foes, oh Lord!

25. Duet, Chorus, Israelite Woman and Man, Chorus

Hail, Hail, Judea, happy land!


CD 2


1. Israelite Messanger

Oh Judas, oh my brethren!

2. Israelite Woman and Chorus

Ah! Wretched, wretched Israel


6. Aria, Judas

Sound and alarm! Your silver trumpets sound

12. Duet, Israelite Woman, Man

Oh! Never, never bow we down




19. Chorus, Youths

See the conquering hero comes!

21. Duet and Chorus

Sing unto God, and high affections raise

25. Chorus

To our great God be all the honor given

28. Aria, Simon

Rejoice, oh Judah! And in songs divine

29. Chorus

Hallelujah!  Amen.


Comments [2]

Andrea Pack from Astoria, NY

Thank you Kent Tritle for your selection and explanation of highlights from Judas Maccabeus. It helped me to focus on the structure of the music, the instrumentation and the sheer beauty of Handel's music which made for enjoyable and meaningful listening.
Happy Holidays to you, everyone at QXR and to all listeners as well.

Dec. 20 2011 08:48 AM
Jeff from Jerusalem, Israel

Small historical correction. Judah (Maccabee) restored the Temple from the hands of the Seleucid Greeks and not the Romans. (The Roman empire was not yet the dominant power). Also although it is true that in the Temple the Menorah stayed lit for 8 days, it had only 7 branches. To commemorate Chanuka today, Jews light an 8 branched Chanukia for 8 days. (It doesn't look like the Menorah of the Temple days).

Dec. 18 2011 04:49 AM

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