Renowned for their Handel interpretations, Harry Christophers and his award-winning choir, The Sixteen, add to their glittering catalogue of Handel discs with this new recording of Saul. In his biblical oratorio, Saul, Handel wrote an epic work of great and noble drama and of thrilling musical inventiveness. Saul represents Handels first proper foray into oratorio and it is a masterpiece full of great and magical moments. It is bursting with exceptional music, extraordinary orchestration (replete with trombones, deep-sounding drum and perky carillon), extended choruses both profound and ebullient, symphonies, concerto movements for organ, recitatives which explore the varying moods of the characters, and the most stunning arias. In Saul Handel gifted soloists with roles of vivid characterisation and the artists on this disc are some of the finest Handelian interpreters of today including Christopher Purves a baritone whose talent for dramatic realisation is matched by superb musical craftsmanship - and Sarah Connolly - whose intensely radiant performance of David on this CD confirms her status as one of our most sought-after Handel performers. Both Christopher and Sarah sang with The Sixteen at the start of their careers, and Sarah released her first solo album Heroes and Heroines on CORO, and so it is with great pride that we welcome them back for this recording. Robert Murray, Elizabeth Atherton and Joélle Harvey along with Sixteen regulars, Mark Dobell, Jeremy Budd and Stuart Young, complete the stellar line-up of soloists on this new recording.
Sarah Connollys David is in a class of its own. Her wonderfully refined and sensitive singing, radiated with intense musicality and intelligence, made the aria O Lord whose mercies numberless a profoundly moving meditation, which must stand as one of Handels most ardent professions of Christian faith.
--Rupert Christiansen, Daily Telegraph
(on The Sixteens performance of Saul at The Barbican)
Sarah Connolly's O Lord whose mercies numberless is as quietly rapturous as anyone other than the enraged Saul could desire . The Sixteen's first-class account is magnificent in every way that matters most. RECORDING OF THE MONTH GRAMOPHONE CHOICE --Gramophone, Oct'12
Handel's dramatic portrait of Saul his jealousy of Goliath's slayer, David, proves self-destructive is one of Shakespearian stature, despite a titter-provoking libretto by Charles Jennens (of Messiah fame). Christopher Purves gives vent to Saul's paranoia with trenchant diction and fulminating delivery of Handel's angry coloratura. Sarah Connolly's David is the other star, unusually but apparently authentically cast in a role once thought to have been written for a countertenor. If the rival sisters Michal (Joelle Harvey) and Merab (Elizabeth Atherton) sound samey and thin-toned, the splendid chorus makes ample amends. --Sunday Times,16/09/12
Christopher Purves and Sarah Connolly all but steal the show. Performance **** Recording ***** --BBC Music Magazine, Christmas'12