George Frideric Handel, RIAS Kammerchor, Concerto Koln, Rene Jacobs - Saul

Published Thursday 24th September 2015
George Frideric Handel, RIAS Kammerchor, Concerto Koln, Rene Jacobs - Saul
George Frideric Handel, RIAS Kammerchor, Concerto Koln, Rene Jacobs - Saul

STYLE: Choral
RATING 9 9 9 9 9 9 9 9 9
LABEL: Harmonia Mundi HMY2921877-78

This product is currently not available from Cross Rhythms Direct

Reviewed by Steven Whitehead

At the time Handel was working it was not the done thing to write operas based on sacred texts so, instead, composers devised oratorios which were, in effect, operas that were sung but not performed as a musical play. Saul the son of Kish was anointed and appointed by the prophet Samuel to be the first king of Israel but, the Bible tells us, he had a flawed character and was eventually replaced by his son-in-law, David the husband of Michal. It is a fascinating story and well worth exploring and it seems that Handel was sore tempted to break out and compose an opera not an oratorio. He went to the trouble of writing detailed stage directions which were printed in the wordbooks distributed at performances. Hence audiences at the first English oratorios could construct a form of mental theatre, aided by Handel's dazzling musical depiction of the action: as we listen, we can see Goliath's gigantic strides, the course of the Jordan, or Saul throwing his javelin. The libretto, adapted from the Old Testament by Charles Jennens, is in English but, if we are honest, it is the music we have come to hear and Handel does not disappoint. The prolific Rene Jacobs directs from the harpsichord and his seven soloists (who double up to sing 11 named parts) along with the RIAS Kammerchor and Concerto Koln give what is possibly the definitive recording. This was first released to critical acclaim in 2005 and its 2015 re-issue is thus to be welcomed. If you think that Handel's sacred music begins and ends with his 'Messiah', this 'Saul' will open your ears and if you are more experienced listener you will not want to miss this re-issue unless you caught it the first time round.

The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.

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