Notes and Editorial Reviews
John Eliot Gardiner, cond; Lynne Dawson (sop); Donna Brown (sop); Ruth Holton (sop); Derek Lee Ragin (ct); John Mark Ainsley (ten); Neil Mackie (ten); Philip Salmon (ten); Philip Slane (ten); Alastair Miles (bs); Richard Savage (bs); Simon Oberst (bs); Monteverdi Ch; English Baroque Soloists (period instruments)
PHILIPS 000942802 (3 CDs: 158:44) Live: Göttingen 6/1989
is the fourth of Handel’s English oratorios, written in 1738–39 as his career as
a composer of Italian opera was drawing to a close. His librettist was Charles Jennens, who would eventually provide texts for
It is clear that, in the wake of a failed subscription to an Italian opera season, Handel intended
to take London by storm. The score calls for a huge orchestra, including trombones, carillon, a large organ, and double-bass kettledrums. This splendid recording, first issued in 1991, is of a live performance originally presented at the Göttingen Handel Festival in June 1989.
It’s a difficult task to enumerate highlights of a recording that abounds in heightened moments. Among my favorites, however, are the sparkling act I, scene 3 depicting the dance of the women of Israel and including the choruses “Welcome, welcome mighty king” and “David his thousands slew,” and Saul’s aria, “With rage I shall burst”; Saul and the Witch of Endor (the latter sung by tenor Philip Salmon); and the closing anthem to David, “Gird on thy Sword.” Gardiner’s tempos throughout are graceful and appropriate; the forces always balanced. The Monteverdi choir produces its customary beautifully blended sound. And throughout, the soloists turn in a sequence of deeply affecting performances.
Despite the fact that his recording is now some 18 years old, for me it remains the best all-round
available. The more recent recording of René Jacobs/Concerto Cologne and the Berlin RIAS Chorus (Harmonia Mundi 901877) is the nearest competitor. The recorded sound is dimensional and clear. The use of original instruments is, of course, an incalculable advantage in portraying of shapes of Baroque phrasing, colors, and the dance-based tempos that form the rhythmical underpinning of the arias and choruses. The 20 or so voices of the Monteverdi Choir are capable of greater agility and clarity of texture than choruses more than twice as large. Add to this the special excitement of a live performance recording, and this is a
to conjure with.
FANFARE: Patrick Rucker
Works on This Recording
Saul, HWV 53 by George Frideric Handel
Donna Brown (Soprano),
Ruth Holton (Soprano),
Lynne Dawson (Soprano),
Derek Lee Ragin (Countertenor),
Simon Oberst (Bass),
Richard Savage (Bass),
Philip Slane (Tenor),
Philip Salmon (Tenor),
Neil Mackie (Tenor),
Alastair Miles (Bass),
John Mark Ainsley (Tenor)
John Eliot Gardiner
English Baroque Soloists,
Written: 1738-1739; London, England
Saul, HWV 53 / Symphony: Allegro
Saul, HWV 53 / Symphony: Allegro
Saul, HWV 53 / Symphony: Larghetto
Saul, HWV 53 / Symphony: Andante larghetto
Saul, HWV 53 / Act 1: 1. Chorus: How excellent thy Name, O Lord
Saul, HWV 53 / Act 1: 2. Air: An Infant rais'd by thy Command - 3. Trio: Along the Monster Atheist strode
Saul, HWV 53 / Act 1: 4. Chorus: The Youth inspir'd by Thee, O Lord
Saul, HWV 53 / Act 1: 5. Chorus: How excellent thy Name, O Lord
Saul, HWV 53 / Act 1: 6. Recitative: He comes - 7. Air: O Godlike Youth!
Saul, HWV 53 / Act 1: 8. Recitative: Behold, O King, the brave victorious Youth
Saul, HWV 53 / Act 2: 52. Recitative: Appear, my Friend
Saul, HWV 53 / Act 1: 9. Air: O King, your Favours with Delight I take - 10. Recitative: O early Piety!
Saul, HWV 53 / Act 2: 53. Air: Your Words, O King - 54. Recitative: Yes he shall wed my Daughter!
Saul, HWV 53 / Act 1: 11. Air: What abject Thoughts a Prince can have - 12. Recitative: Yet think, on whom this Honour you bestow
Saul, HWV 53 / Act 2: 55. Recitative: A Father's Will
Saul, HWV 53 / Act 2: 56. Duet: O Fairest of ten thousand Fair - 57. Chorus: Is there a Man
Saul, HWV 53 / Act 1: 13. Air: Birth and Fortune I despise!
Saul, HWV 53 / Act 2: 58. Symphony
Saul, HWV 53 / Act 1: 14. Recitative: Go on, illustrious Pair! - 15. Air: While yet thy Tide of Blood runs high
Saul, HWV 53 / Act 2: 59. Recitative: Thy Father is as cruel
Saul, HWV 53 / Act 1: 16. Recitative: Thou, Merab, first in Birth - 17. Air: My Soul rejects the Thought - 18. Air: See, see with what a scornful Air - 19. Air: Ah! Lovely Youth!
Saul, HWV 53 / Act 2: 60. Duet: At Persecution I can laugh
Saul, HWV 53 / Act 1: 20. Symphony - 21. Recitative: Already see - 22.Chorus: Welcome, welcome mighty King!
Saul, HWV 53 / Act 2: 61. Recitative: Whom dost thou seek?
Saul, HWV 53 / Act 1: 23. Accompagnato: What do I hear? - 24. Chorus: David his Ten Thousands slew - 25. Accompagnato: To him Ten thousands!
Saul, HWV 53 / Act 2: 62. Air: No, no, let the Guilty tremble
Saul, HWV 53 / Act 1: 26. Air: With Rage I shall burst his Praises to hear!
Saul, HWV 53 / Act 2: 63. Recitative: Mean as he was
Saul, HWV 53 / Act 1: 27. Recitative: Imprudent Women!
Saul, HWV 53 / Act 1: 28. Air: Fell Rage and black Despair possessed
Saul, HWV 53 / Act 1: 29. Recitative: This but the smallest Part of Harmony 30. Accompagnato: By thee this Universal Frame
Saul, HWV 53 / Act 1: 31. Recitative: Rack'd with Infernal Pains
Saul, HWV 53 / Act 1: 32. Air: O Lord, whose Mercies - 33. Symphony
Saul, HWV 53 / Act 1: 34: Recitative: 'Tis all in vain - 35. Air: A Serpent in my Bosom warm'd - 36. Recitative: Has he escaped my Rage?
Saul, HWV 53 / Act 1: 37. Air: Capricious Man
Saul, HWV 53 / Act 1: 38. Accompagnato: O Filial Piety!
Saul, HWV 53 / Act 1: 39. Air: No, no cruel Father, no
Saul, HWV 53 / Act 1: 40. Air: O Lord, whose Providence Ever wakes for their Defence
Saul, HWV 53 / Act 1: 41. Chorus: Preserve him for the Glory of thy Name
Saul, HWV 53 / Act 2: 42. Chorus: Envy! Eldestborn of Hell!
Saul, HWV 53 / Act 2: 43. Recitative: Ah! dearest Friend
Saul, HWV 53 / Act 2: 44. Air: But sooner Jordan's Stream, I swear
Saul, HWV 53 / Act 2: 45. Recitative: O strange Vicissitude!
Saul, HWV 53 / Act 2: 46. Air: Such haughty Beauties
Saul, HWV 53 / Act 2: 47. Recitative: My Father comes - 48. Recitative: Hast thou obey'd my Orders
Saul, HWV 53 / Act 2: 49. Air: Sin not, o King, against the Youth
Saul, HWV 53 / Act 2: 50. Air: As great Jehovah lives
Saul, HWV 53 / Act 2: 51. Air: From Cities storm'd, and Battles won
Saul, HWV 53 / Act 2: 64. Air: Author of Peace
Saul, HWV 53 / Act 2: 65. Symphony
Saul, HWV 53 / Act 2: 66. Accompagnato: The Time at length is come - 67. Recitative: Where is the Son of Jesse
Saul, HWV 53 / Act 2: 68. Chorus: O fatal Consequence of Rage
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