Janet Baker: "Ye men of Gaza": "Samson" Act 1, by Handel

Janet Baker: "Ye men of Gaza" (Samson Act 1) by Haendel

Handel was perhaps the first musician to bring to MIlton's texts the full range of baroque virtuosity required to match the brilliance of Milton's grand style. Moreover, Handel understood what many readers and critics have missed: the recognition that artistic flair is dangerous and likely to disguise evil in seductive guise. Milton shared with Shakespeare the sense that verbal talent can be monstrously misused, whether by Richard of Gloucester, Iago, Comus, Satan, or Dalila. In this extract Handel endows the Philistine call for celebration of Dagon with irresistible verve and seductiveness, effectively displayed by Janet Baker and the English Chamber Orchestra. This ironic delightfulness is associated with the followers of Dagon throughout the opera, including Dalila here, and adds greatly to the charm and sophistication of any performance, without detracting from Milton's basic concerns. Though the libretto greatly expands the verses this musical passage is based on the following speech in Milton's Samson Agonistes (1310-8):

Officer: Samson, to thee our Lords thus bid me say;
This day to Dagon is a solemn feast,
With Sacrifices, Triumph, Pomp, and Games;
Thy strength the know surpassing human rate,
And now some public proof thereof require
To honor this great Feast, and great Assembly;
Rise therefore with all speed and come along,
Where I will see thee heart'n'd and freshly clad
To appear as fits before th'illustrious Lords.



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