To celebrate Hanukka, the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra presented, it almost goes without saying, a selection from Handel's Judas Maccabaeus and, as an Israeli contribution, Tsvi Avni's Psalms - to say nothing of Bellini's Missa and Handel's Messiah, presumably in anticipation of Christmas.
The Israel Kibbutz Choir's strong point is its male section - forceful, impressive and appropriately dark. The sopranos, on the other hand, contributed a nuance of shrill shouting on the high notes, sounding more assertive and feminist than feminine. Nevertheless, when the choir finally reached the concluding "See, the Conq'ring Hero Comes," the audience's happiness knew no bounds, as expected.
Claire Meghnagi and Alon Harari sounded best in their duo. Here Meghnagi's lovely soprano blended in agreeably with Harari's appealing soft counter-tenor, without making her tendency to produce sometimes too strained tones in her solos' high notes too audible. Harari's lack of radiance did not diminish the duo's ensemble effect.
But Mozart's Alleluia was way beyond Meghnagi's capacities. Her obvious effort in climbing up to the highest note was not sufficient for letting her dwell on it to make her climactic point, but caused her to hurry down rapidly back to the safer lower regions.
Conductor Daniel Cohen achieved an accurate, solid, well-coordinated performance. Tension and excitement, though, do not quite seem to be his cup of tea. Handel's Hallelujah, when inspiredly rendered, should make the roof blow up. Well, it didn't, but stayed firmly in place. This did not prevent its being repeated as an encore, in good old British tradition. The audience asked for it.