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Handel's Samson

February 2006
Symphony Hall, Birmingham

"...with enthusiam, an acute feeling for words and seemingly inexhaustible stamina"

...Paul Spicer has trained this large body of choristers to sing with athletic lightness as well as powerful strength, and the result was both vivid and stirring. Almost contemporaneous in composition with Messiah, Samson shares a comparable sturdiness of fugal technique and amazingly pictorial colours from a compact orchestra (here the crisp and smiling English Chamber Orchestra).

Where it differs from that oratorio of Christian contemplation is in the dramatic delineation of individual characters, generally well conveyed by a youthful bunch of soloists carefully selected by the shrewd Spicer. Soprano Sophie Bevan crowned her fine contributions with a radiant 'Let the bright seraphim', clearing the clouds after mournfully funereal laments for Samson, and partnered by Andrew Crowley's clarion trumpet. But the chief joy of this fresh, committed reading of this rarely-given work was the light it was able to throw on the status of Handel... Paul Spicer and his Birmingham Bach Choir deserve the Midland's gratitude for this brave undertaking.