Solomon - G F Handel (1685 - 1759)

The popularity of oratorio in England owes much to the nation's choral singing tradition and the patronage by the Elector of Hanover, later George I, of George Frederick Handel. In his oratorios, Handel sought both to educate and entertain, and provided a foil to the more restrained and devotional religious music of Byrd and JS Bach.
Handel composed "Solomon" between 5 May and 13 June, 1748. The librettist, as with his next work "Susanna", is unknown. The plot is simple with Act 1 dealing with the inauguration of the newly completed temple, and ends with Solomon beckoning his Queen toward the cedar grove, where one suspects it is not just the 'amorous turtles' that 'love beneath the pleasing gloom'. Act II is based around the well known story of two women arguing over who is the mother of the new-born baby, and Solomon's sharp thinking to find a solution and Act III portrays the visit of  the Queen of Sheba (also known as the Queen of Egypt and Ethiopia), and her amazement at the glory and splendour of Solomon's court.
With a relatively small and diverse cast of characters (Solomon, Queen of Sheba, two Harlots, Zadok the Priest and a Levite) it falls to the chorus, as builders and inhabitants of this 'golden' city, to emphasis the grandeur and splendour of Solomon's kingdom and to literarily provide the pillars of the whole piece. These grand choruses, seven of which are in eight voice parts, add to the texture and opulence of the oratorio mirroring the glory of the court and religious intensity.
Always an astute business man Handel praised and paid homage to his patron by highlighting the perceived parallels, for the eighteen century audience, between Solomon and George II. The qualities of Solomon, as portrayed by Handel, his piety (Act 1), wisdom (Act II) and splendour (Act III), were also attributable to the reigning English King, and Handel duly praised the establishment virtues of happy marriage, rural contentment and a national religion.

British Choirs on the Net