Music review: Handel’s Samson, Usher Hall

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Lasting over four hours in total, Handel’s oratorio Samson was undoubtedly one of the International Festival’s lengthier events.

Handel’s Samson, Usher Hall (*****)

Yet, in the high-powered performance of it by Edinburgh-based Dunedin Consort on Monday evening, not a thing wavered for a moment in gripping the audience throughout the piece’s entirety.

At the helm of capturing the drama of the biblical tale of Samson and Delilah is Dunedin’s music director, John Butt. If he doesn’t already have national treasure status, then it’s time he did. In an unconditionally uplifting performance, an exceptionally fine line-up of soloists, the instrumental ensemble playing period instruments and the bedrock of Dunedin, its chorus, responded to Butt’s life-affirming direction to bring the pathos of Samson’s despair alive.

In the title role, Paul Appleby was a silken-voiced tragic hero, skilfully pacing the unfolding of recitatives and arias ultimately leading to his death and superbly complemented by Alice Coote’s deeply moving and powerfully sung Micah. Soloists and chorus vividly coloured Milton’s text with full-bodied clarity, particularly noteworthy being Sophie Bevan’s Delilah and Louise Alder in Let the Bright Seraphim.