Robert L. Edwards, Conductor, Consultant, Photographer

Georg Friderich Händel  “Israel In Egypt”

Handel Israel In Egypt portrait
Painting of Händel made shortly before he began work on “Israel In Egypt.”

Written in 1739, just eleven years prior to Bach's death, Händel’s  “Israel in Egypt” is the most vibrantly choral work in all of Händel’s output. It is a biblical oratorio with libretto likely compiled by Händel’s collaborator Charles Jennens from selected texts in Exodus and the Psalms.

There are over 30 choruses within the oratorio and few arias, which accounts for its original cool reception, since Händel’s audience consisted mainly of opera lovers who had flocked to hear the work after the traditional opera season had been canceled. Further, some religious people were uncomfortable with a secular work sung to an entirely scriptural text. (This same issued plagued early performances of Messiah a few years later.) For the next 17 years, Händel re-worked and re-wrote the piece at least three times, hoping for success, but it never came. He died three years later.

It was almost 200 years before “Israel in Egypt” achieved its proper status as a milestone in Händel’s development as the consummate master of non-liturgical choral drama.

Georg Friderich Händel - excerpt “Israel In Egypt”
 - Live Performance
Scranton Singers Guild, Robert L. Edwards
- 1984

For sheer choral excitement, there are few pieces more intense than the picturesque double choral fugue that ends the Oratorio, based on text from Exodus: "Sing ye to the Lord, for He hath triumphed gloriously; the horse and his rider hath He thrown into the sea."

Israel In Egypt manuscript page Princeton University

Page from a Manuscript dated 1760 which we used for our performance - beginning of the final double fugue for chorus:
“...For He hath triumph-ed gloriously.”
- Princeton University Library

In order to provide permanent documentation of the important sociological and musical contributions of the Greater Hazleton Oratorio Society, Singers’ Guild of Scranton and Sinfonia da Camera to the lives of residents in Northeastern Pennsylvania, some of the 1977-1986 live performance analog recordings of these community groups were rescued, restored, and converted to a digital format. Those restorations and the performance excerpts that appear on this website are intended as historical documents not as an entertainment product. The copying or dissemination of these excerpts is strictly prohibited.

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