Jephtha (1752) was George Frederick Handel's final oratorio, and it was composed during a period of incipient blindness and declining health. Yet the composer's artistic powers were undiminished in this dramatization of the Biblical story, for the arias and choruses are as memorable as any from Handel's earlier works in the genre, including Messiah and Israel in Egypt. This 2008 recording by Fabio Biondi, the Collegium Vocale Ghent, and the Stavanger Symphony Orchestra is a brilliant period presentation, and the spry rhythms, lean counterpoint, clear textures, and distinctive colors of original instruments combine to make this an especially enjoyable performance of a fairly neglected masterpiece.
The plot of "Jephtha" is based, with alterations, on Chapter XI of Judges. This begins, "Now Jephtha the Gileadite was a mighty man of valour, and he was the son of a harlot." He was disinherited by his half-brothers, the sons of Gilead's legitimate wife, and went into exile, becoming a kind of outlaw leader. Now the Israelites, including [hose of Gilead, who have been following Mrange gods, are being oppressed by the Ammonites. [/quote]