> HANDEL SAUL MDG33208012 [KM]: Classical Reviews- February 2002 MusicWeb(UK)






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Georg Friedrich HANDEL (1685-1759)
Saul HWV 53
Saul - Gregory Reinhart
David - Matthias Koch
Jonathan - John Elwes
Michal - Vasilijka Jezovsek
Merab - Simone Kermes
High Priest - Johannes Kalpers
Samuel - Michail Schelomjanskis
Kölner Kammerchor - Collegium Cartusianum, Peter Neumann
Rec: Live recording, June 11, 1997, Trinitatiskirche, Köln, Germany.
MDG 332 0801-2 [156.12]


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When Handel had a difficult time as opera manager, in the 1730s, he turned to oratorios, which required neither the expensive Italian soloists nor complicated sets. Saul, based on the First Book of Samuel, written in 1738, and first performed in 1739, was relatively popular, with Handel reviving it several times through 1754. With all of the dramatic features of Handelís oratorios, this work, featuring a bass in the starring role, opens with a festive four-movement instrumental Symphony.

As for the other Handel oratorios that Peter Neumann has recorded for MDG, this is a live recording, capturing the energy and the defects of live performances. His soloists are all excellent, and the sound, as for the other MDG recordings, is impeccable. However, one could comment on the crispness of the sound, recorded in a church, whereas the work was written to be played in a theatre with a warmer, softer character.

Nevertheless, there is a great deal of pleasure in this performance. From the opening Symphony, the tone is set - this is a tense, grandiose work, with many high points. However, it is a very fragmented work, with many short sections: recitatives, brief choral movements, short arias, many less than two minutes long. There are a total of 87 parts to this work - compared to two of Neumannís other Handel oratorios, Belshazzar has 57 parts, and Susanna 65.

This brevity of parts means that none of the arias match the intensity of Handelís long, strophic pieces, where a soloist dialogues with an obbligato instrument. The soloists are very good, especially bass Gregory Reinhart in the lead role. The choir, as in all of Neumannís Handel oratorio recordings, is also first-rate, though it is not greatly used in this work.

Peter Neumann again presents a fine recording of a Handel oratorio. While this is perhaps not one of Handelís most interesting works, the quality of the musicians and singers is as good as it gets.


Kirk McElhearn


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