Top positive review
13 people found this helpful
A 'transformatory' Saul
on 21 November 2012
I own another copy of Saul conducted by Jacobs, but listening to this recording has been a revelation to me. As other reviewers have commented, it is lively and expressive, but also compelling and provides a very dynamic line to the action (not just a collection of recitative and airs here). For this reason I am, for the first time, listening and enjoying this oratorio on par with Handel's Semele and Messiah.
The soloists are universally excellent. Of course, there are singers who one always prefers in other recordings (such as Rosemary Joshua's Merab under Jacobs); but they all work together so well that even these other favourites are not missed. Christopher Purves deserves particular plaudits as a vengeful, vile Saul and Robert Murray shows off great diction and style as Jonathan.
To pick a bone with one of the other reviews, Sarah Connolly is superb in this recording. I would also suggest that the preference for a mezzo or a countertenor is a personal choice; but it should be remembered that Handel originally intended the role of David for a mezzo or soprano (The Cambridge Handel Encyclopedia (2009), p567). However, the first performance was given by Mr Russell, who was a countertenor. This mixing of genders was not unusual in Handel works; and Handel generally employed the best available singer for a role. As Sarah Connolly is a notable Handel singer well-practiced in 'trouser roles', I feel that this is one occasion where we don't have to worry about whether this is right or wrong.
Finally, The Sixteen are on excellent form in the choruses and Alastair Ross provides some wonderful organ interludes.