Stories » Handel's epic 'Saul' oratorio gets heroic treatment from Philharmonia Baroque / San Francisco Examiner

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Handel's epic 'Saul' oratorio gets heroic treatment from Philharmonia Baroque / San Francisco Examiner

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Throughout his tenure as music director of the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra, Nicholas McGegan has excelled in the large-scale works of Handel. He did it again Saturday evening at Berkeley's First Congregational Church, leading a spectacular concert performance of the composer's "Saul." Saturday's performance, which repeats Friday in San Francisco and Saturday in Palo Alto to close Philharmonia's 38th season, found McGegan and ensemble in top form, powering through the two hour, 50-minute score with brisk, unflagging energy. The orchestra played heroically, and the cast was first-rate. Robust bass-baritone Daniel Okulitch thundered appropriately.

It's impossible to overstate the brilliance of Bruce Lamott's Philharmonia Chorale, but suffice it to say that this 25-member mixed chorus sounded tremendous as the Chorus of Israelites. From gentle laments to scornful outbursts despairing over the future of their nation, they serve heroically as the conscience of "Saul."

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