Conducted by Richard Cock.
Belshazzar’s Feast is a cantata by the English composer William Walton. It was first performed at the Leeds Festival on 8 October 1931, with the baritone Dennis Noble, the London Symphony Orchestra and the Leeds Festival Chorus, conducted by Malcolm Sargent. The work has remained one of Walton’s most celebrated compositions. Osbert Sitwell selected the text from the Bible, primarily the Book of Daniel, and Psalm 137. In the story of Belshazzar‘s Feast, the Jews are in exile in Babylon. After a feast at which Belshazzar, the Babylonian king, commits sacrilege by using the Jews’ sacred vessels to praise the heathen gods, he is miraculously killed, the kingdom falls, and the Jews regain their freedom.
The English composer John Rutter has become a veritable icon of contemporary choral music. His association with Clare College, Cambridge, first as a student, then as Director of Music, and the Cambridge Singers, has led to international recognition. Gloria is one of Rutter’s most ambitious concert works, and its premiere was the occasion of his first visit to the US, in May, 1974. Rutter himself sees this work as analogous to a symphony, with three movements – allegro vivace, andante, vivace e ritmico – i.e. fast, slow, fast, in common with symphonic practice, and says Rutter: “exalted, devotional and jubilant by turns”. About the orchestration he says: “The accompaniment is for brass ensemble with timpani, percussion and organ – a combination which in the outer movements makes quite a joyful noise unto the Lord, but which is used more softly and introspectively in the middle movement”.