The key here is quite simple. As one of the other reviewers on this page has said, Saul is one of Handel's "operatic" oratorios. Who best to present same than Rene Jacobs? M. Jacobs has been criticized for an overly dramatic approach to choral music at the same time he has been soundly praised for the same quality. So it is up to you to decide. Unlike some of the other astute reviewers on this page, I have only a very old recording to compare Jacobs's performance to, and that comparison happens only in my head, since I no longer own the LP recording of that performance. In any event, the comparison would be invidious to say the least. What I hear in Jacobs' recording is a commitment to the score and more importantly, a commitment to the period that created this very great music.
As with most performances by this conductor, the drama is palpable. Go to the scene with the Witch of Endor for confirmation. The engineers at Harmonia Mundi, by the way, are very tasteful here, producing the de rigeur echo effects with eerie subtlety.
You want top-name performers? I'm sure you can find them elsewhere, but you won't find more committed or assured performances than are right here, on these two CDs.
Final enticement? Two CDs as opposed to three. So that's the package: a magisterial performance, fine performing forces top to bottom, and economy. Plus sound that is very fine: powerful, up front in the manner we expect from a production involving Rene Jacobs, but nonetheless realistic, with enough air to make the presentation easy on the ears. This is a model recording, in my opinion.
As to the music: It is not, I think, the equal of Handel's later Solomon, but it contains absolutely deathless music nonetheless and is in its entirety a masterpiece. Where to go for confirmation of its greatness? Maybe the famous Carillon Chorus (No. 23) or one of the big, martial choruses scattered throughout the score. Or, if you rightly think this is a psychological study of Saul, go to any of his tortured recitatives or arias after the ascendancy of David. All are astounding. For me, the great, tear-inducing number is No. 84, the chorus that laments the death of Jonathan. If you want to know why Handel is one of the two or three greatest composers that ever lived, here is Exhibit A (at least from Saul), dear friends.
So that's my take. I haven't heard many rival recordings, but knowing Handel, I think Jacobs turns in a very viable, and scintillatingly vital, performance of the score.