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CLASSICAL MUSIC | RECORDINGS

The king receives admirable support

October 09, 2005|Chris Pasles

Handel: "Saul"

Rosemary Joshua, soprano. Emma Bell, soprano. Lawrence Zazzo, countertenor. Jeremy Ovenden, tenor. Gidon Saks, bass-baritone. RIAS-Kammerchor. Concerto Koln. Rene Jacobs, conductor. (Harmonia Mundi)

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JACOBS has one advantage over a pair of other "Saul" conductors, Paul McCreesh (Audio CD) and John Eliot Gardiner (Philips): He fits Handel's 1738 dramatic oratorio about the first king of Israel onto two discs compared with their three. But Gidon Saks, with his grainy if dramatic bass, is not the Saul of choice given McCreesh's Neal Davies or Gardiner's Alastair Miles. The other principal soloists here -- Rosemary Joshua (Michal), Emma Bell (Merab), Lawrence Zazzo (David) and up-and-coming American countertenor Jeremy Ovenden (Jonathan) -- hold their own with character and virtuosity. The German choir sings with a light accent. Except for the powerful "Dead March," the instrumental interludes are quick, rousing, sprightly and superbly played.

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