HANDEL Saul McCreesh 4745102

For that lament in this superlative performance by the Gabrieli Consort and Players under Paul McCreesh, we were fortunate to have one of the finest counter-tenors around, Andreas Scholl, and on top form . . . On a par with Scholl was the soprano Susan Gritton, who delivered Merab's Author of Peace with immaculate control and all the mellifluity implied by the text: "Words that sweet as honey flow". Neal Davies took the title role, wracked with envy at the newcomer David's popular success, maliciously plotting to dispose of him, and spitting fury at his son's rebelliousness. Mark Padmore was the excellent Jonathan, and Nancy Argenta was sympathetic in the role of Michal, which she took over from Deborah York at short notice . . . Both chorus and orchestra were outstanding . . . McCreesh paced the drama with a sure hand, sweeping the action forward here, interpolating a pregnant silence there, and shaping the sublime paragraphs of the great lament with heartrending pathos. Next year's recording from the Gabrielis is eagerly awaited.

And just as Handel never misses a trick of dramatic timing, so McCreesh and his musicians gave a performance of virtuoso pacing and revelatory details, without a single weak link, down to the last solo Amalekite from the chorus . . . And then the soloists. Saul is a masterwork of psychological characterisation; and Neal Davies searched his soul, from a vocal virtuosity of raging, to the hush of fear within his bass as he seeks and sees the abyss in his encounter with the ghost of Samuel. But in our golden age of the counter-tenor, his role is invariably eclipsed by that of David. And it was testimony to the power of this performance that Andreas Scholl did not sing everyone off the stage. Yet his was, of course, a David for all to die for. Scholl's voice can achieve anything he demands of it. And his imaginative demands are the highest: be it in David's anger and grief, or in his lament for Jonathan, aching within the voice's low register...Mark Padmore was an eloquent Jonathan; Susan Gritton a Merab of movingly fickle flesh and blood; and Nancy Argenta, standing in for an indisposed Deborah York, feisty and disarming as Michal.

McCreesh conjures a performance of an unusual power and glory . . . Handel keeps this a very human drama, brilliantly embodied by McCreesh's Gabrieli Consort Players and another creamy cast . . . the result is one of the most satisfying Handel oratorio performances for some time.

Classy casting . . . rich orchestral sonorities and a powerful overall sense of dramatic
pacing . . . the latest Handel release from Paul McCreesh and his Gabrieli musicians leaps to the top of the list of recordings of "Saul".

McCreesh has an exemplary track record in this repertoire and his cast is well chosen . . .

The richness of Handel's scoring . . . is superbly realised and the wide emotional range of the drama is quite thrilling. Neal Davies is excellent as the king tragically torn apart by jealousy. Andreas Scholl is an equally fine David, and Mark Padmore, Susan Gritton and Nancy Argenta are among a strong supporting cast.

. . . the performance of "Saul" under Paul McCreesh is arguably the finest available . . . Andreas Scholl, Neal Davies, Mark Padmore and Susan Gritton all in magnificent voice, and Paul McCreesh giving the score the mixture of spacious grandeur and sharp-edged drama it really demands.

Mark Padmore expresses Jonathan's warm-heartedness with light tone, phrasing well and moving easily through his music. The role of David falls to the smooth-toned Scholl, who sings in excellent English, without a trace of a foreign accent . . . and with natural rather than 'cathedral-precious' enunciation. He follows the music's undulations in long breaths and flits with easy flexibility through the division . . . Neal Davies, another experienced Handelian, stresses Saul's anger and envy in recitatives, bringing the king's implacability to the fore . . . Davies also moves through his part without a hint of aspirates. Among the leading soloists in both sets there is no weak link.

. . . splendid set.

The benchmark recording has long been John Eliot Gardiner's on Philips. But this new version matches it in dramatic impact and arguably fields an even finer team of soloists. With his firm, darkly focused tone and incisive diction, Neal Davies powerfully conveys Saul's jealousy and anger in the first two acts and his tragic self-knowledge in the Witch of Endor scene. As David, countertenor Andreas Scholl sings the most serenely assuaging "O Lord, whose Mercies Numberless" imaginable. Mark Padmore is an ardent Jonathan, while the ethereal Nancy Argenta and the more vibrant, intense Susan Gritton contrast ideally as Saul's daughters. McCreesh encourages more direct, less moulded chorarl singing than Gardiner. But the results are equally vivid . . . A magnificent set, to rank alongside McCreesh's "Theodora" and "Solomon".

And the precision and flexibility of the Gabrieli Consort is a constant delight; the voices are fresh and bright, the words well articulated. The Gabrieli Players, too, produce a fine and distinctive period orchestral timbre. The movements scored for special effect come off admirably: a delightful tinkly 'carillon', sonorous trombones and blazing trumpets in the battle symphonies, and excellent concerto movements for organ . . .

This superbly recorded new version of "Saul" is the first to offer a serious challenge to John Eliot Gardiner's 1989 performance . . . with equally incisive, disciplined choral singing, the result is comparably overwhelming . . . What finally tips me towards McCreesh is the casting of Andreas Scholl as David: serene, dulcet-toned and, when the situation demands, excitingly dramatic . . .

. . . the magnificence of the playing McCreesh inspires from his Gabrieli Players places them on a distinctly superior level, a verdict that also applies to a comparison of Archiv's resplendent sound with Philips's live engineering at Göttingen. I expect no more enthralling recording to come my may this year than this breathtaking version of one of the towering monuments of Baroque music . . . Paul McCreesh's triumphant recording of which I reviewed in 23:2, Handel's "Saul" has done rather well on disc in terms of both quality and quantity . . . McCreesh brings all of these various strands together with a mastery, sensitivity, and stylistic judgement that match and for the most part surpass anything his predecessors have accomplished in "Saul" . . . the combined richness and lucidity in the textures of McCreesh's performance lend it a power and authority that prove irresistible. This power also marks the singing of his 24-voice choir; and when it comes to soloists, McCreesh's line-up seems to me the finest of several fine vocal casts . . . you need look no farther than McCreesh.

Among large-scale Handel releases, the two outstanding ones that have come to my notice are Paul McCreesh's "Saul", graced by the participation of such nonpareil Handel singers as Andreas Scholl and Nancy Argenta . . .

Handel's great oratorio gets its finest performance on disc to date.

"Saul" is one of Handel's great musical tragedies with profound character studies, and a dramatic fluidity and pace that at times looks forward to Mozart. This recording does justice to all those facets . . . Paul McCreesh's chorus responds to and heightens the drama . . . this feels like a group of real people.

Lebendiger und packender, als man das immerhin dreistündige Saul-Oratorium in Darmstadt hörte, hätte man es sich wohl kaum vorstellen können. ...Von der ersten bis zur letzten Minute fesselnd gelang diese Aufführung mit dem renommierten Ensemble" Gabrieli Consort & Players unter der Leitung von Paul McCreesh. Achtzehn brillante, schlanke und obertonreiche Stimmen formierten sich hier zu einem außergewöhnlich strahlkräftigen und dabei klanglich überaus modulationsfähigen Vokalensemble, dem die Agilität und technische Souveränität der Instrumentalisten in nichts nachstand. Ein solches Maß an Perfektion - immerhin spielte das Ensemble auf historischem Instrumentarium - hatte schon fast etwas Unwirkliches... Der Bass Neil Davies gestaltete markant, ausdrucksstark und absolut koloratur... Der Abend endete mit stehenden Ovationen für Solisten, Chor, Orchester und den diese phänomenale Aufführung erstaunlich entspannt leitenden Paul McCreesh.

Revolutionär . . . seine opulent besetzten Gabrieli Players überzeugen . . . mit einem sehr griffigen, akzentfreudigen und doch stets kultivierten Spiel . . . hervorragend . . .

Vor allem die explosiven, kriegerischen Chöre (Gabrieli Consort) sind respekteinflößend . . . Mit heller Klarheit und zugespitzter Expressivität gestalten die Gabrieli Players, geleitet von Paul McCreesh, Händels Porträtkünste.

Die Aufnahme von "Saul" ist die letzte in der Reihe von Händels Oratorien, die Paul McCreesh für Archiv einspielte und für mich die beste und schönste von allen. In McCreeshs Händen entfaltet sich dieses Oratorium als ein herrliches Werk und es klingt so, als hätte man dieses bekannte Werk noch nicht gehört. Die dramatische Intensität, die von der ersten Sekunde bis zum Ende durch Glanz, Klangfantasie und Schlagkraft fesselt, sowie der warme, gut fokussiert aufgenommene Ton sind einfach grandios . . . Eine dynamische und vorbildliche Interpretation, die McCreeshs sichere Hand für Händels lyrische Linien und sein Gespür für die dramatischen Höhepunkte unter Beweis stellt . . .

Diese innovative Partitur wird von Paul McCreesh, seinem exzellenten Originalklangensemble und dem vorzüglichen Solistenteam auf höchstem Niveau dargeboten. Herauszuheben sind der mit seraphischem Engelston verzaubernde Counter Andreas Scholl, Mark Padmore, der tenoralen Wohllaut und eloquenten Vortrag vereint, sowie der mit imponierender Autorität und markigem Bassbaritonfundament auftrumpfende Neal Davies.

Paul McCreesh, si alerte, si conscient, si léger . . .

Dans tous les cas, que vous préfériez Mackerras ou Gardiner, que certains choix ou certaines voix vous poussent vers Neumann ou Ledger, McCreesh prend place à leurs côtés devant Harnoncourt et ses successeurs.

Paul McCreesh . . . possède un atout de poids et s'en sert admirablement: son équipe de solistes masculins, tout à fait surprenante. Andreas Scholl est le David le plus subtil qu'on puisse espérer, la ligne de son chant et son timbre souverains ne peuvent que remporte l'adhésion. Ainsi en est-il aussi de Mark Padmore, pour une justesse de ton et une admirable beauté vocale. Paul Agnew est des plus émouvants et l'une des bonnes idées de cet enregistrement est d'avoir réintégré son magnifique récitatif «This but the smallest part», au sein du premier acte. Neil Davis, enfin, est un Saul à la belle prestance, terriblement convaincant.

Neal Davies, dans le rôle-titre, n'accuse aucune défaillance technique . . . la tendre Mical de Gardiner, Susan Gritton et Mark Padmore reflètent avec justesse la confusion des sentiments de Mérab et Jonathan, bousculés par la folle jalousie de leur père.

La obra se encuentra trufada de momentos excelsos; hay que destacar, entre las escenas corales, la del epinicio, o canto de victoria ... se lleva la palma el contratenor Andreas Scholl como David. Su prodigioso timbre, unido a su excelente técnica le alzan como uno de los mejores de toda la fonografía ... Junto a él, un Jonatán de calidad a cargo del tenor Mark Padmore ... Esta grabación es sin duda una firme candidata a uno de nuestros cercanos Premios CD Compact. Los Gabrieli Consort Et Players realizan una labor francamente memorable, realzada, además, por una toma de sonido excelente que permite recrearnos en los mil matices de una partitura tan moderna para su época que se anticipa a dramas como el ¿Otello¿ de Verdi, ¿Wozzeck¿ o ¿Peter Grimes¿.

Archi ha puesto sus mejores medios para ofrecer una versión tan auténtica como Haendel la concibió, con voces tan extraordinarias como la de Andreas Scholl, Neal Davies o Mark Padmore, y, por supuesto, la siempre sobresaliente eficacia de Paul McCreesh y el Gabrieli Consort.

Paul McCreesh se convierte aquí en el concertador ideal del espíritu de la obra mediante una lectura acertadamente optimista, sin permitir ni el más mínimo signo de amaneramiento en su orquesta, aliñada con lujos como el organista Timothy Roberts. Pero este Händel no sería lo mismo sin contar con el David de Andreas Scholl. Ya sea en el lamento, en las arias de bravura o en la ornamentación, el contratenor muestra un aplomo muy difícil de encontrar en su cuerda hoy en día. ... Un sonido de excelente claridad complementa una novedad discográfica que sería deseable oír en salas de concierto del país.

Excelente trabajo tanto del coro como los instrumentistas (con instrumentos originales), en precisa ejecución, entusiasta y enérgica, pero con esmerado cuidado por el sonido, siempre bello y cálido.

McCreesh mira per buona parte a riportare in vita la solennità di un Oratorio che ha dato lustro alla musica inglese e centra pienamente l'obiettivo grazie anche ad un coro ed un'orchestra di gran livello tecnico e musicale. La sua lettura è grandiosa, giustamente pomposa, tenera e poetica alla bisogna, sempre senza eccessi e senza forzature.