Critic’s Choice

April 26, 2016 at 11:46 am

By David Wright


George Frideric Handel (1685-1759), one of the longest-lived of the great composers, had about 60 years to compose his works. Boston’s Handel and Haydn Society, founded in 1815, has had over 200 years to play them. So you have to figure they’ve run through the whole list several times by now, right?

This Friday and Sunday, artistic director Harry Christophers will lead the Society’s orchestra, chorus and vocal soloists in a work by Handel that the Society has never performed in its entirety before. And it’s not some oddity from an obscure corner of the composer’s career; it’s one of his outstanding London successes, the oratorio Saul, with words by Charles Jennens, librettist of Messiah.

Handel and Haydn is now a period-instruments orchestra—and in this case, what instruments!  For his drama of regal jealousy and intrigue in biblical times, Handel boosted his usual band with a carillon, Baroque triple harp, trombone, large kettledrums, and a brilliant organ solo that the composer himself played at the work’s 1739 premiere.

Concertgoers would be well-advised to get to Symphony Hall this weekend and experience this rare example of Handel’s psychological insight and instrumental wizardry. It could be 200 years till the next opportunity.

The Handel and Haydn Society performs Handel’s Saul, 7:30 p.m.Friday and 3 p.m. Sunday in Symphony Hall. handelandhaydn.org; 617-266-3605.

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