Why this recording might have failed to make a favorable impression on the previous reviewer may forever remain a mystery. This is a very strong performance of a highly noteworthy oratorio. Conti's harmonic language is not that of Handel or Vivaldi, and there are some unique moments in the recitatives that may leave the listener surprised and delighted. The sheer freshness and excitement conveyed by this new recording of a mostly forgotten composer are tangible, and the serious nature of this work command the listener's attention from the first notes of the overture. The rather large orchestra sounds excellent! Each aria stands up to repeated listenings, and the singers ornament extensively and tastefully, and treat us to fine cadenzas where appropriate. The pair of David and Jonathon, sung by Mijanovic and Christensen respectively, get some of the finest numbers in the work, and the scenes in which they sing together seem to have received extra special compositional attention from Conti. Mijanovic is in especially fine form here, singing with sensitivity that seems to be lacking from some of her other recent recordings.
The "harp scene" in which David comforts Saul is absolutely mesmerizing. Conti was a theorbo virtuoso originally imported to the Habsburg court from Italy as an orchestral musician in the service of the Holy Roman Emperor. His skill as an opera composer eventually earned him the status of the preferred opera composer of the court, and he aptly demonstrates his talents in this scene. The hypnotic repeated notes of the theorbo obbligato slowly unfurl into a graceful chain of suspensions that lead into a recitativo accompagnato followed by a very long aria. Jakob Lindberg's performance of the theorbo obbligato here bears mentioning, as it is especially fine and every second of this fifteen minute long scene is simply ravishing. As one might expect in a Viennese oratorio of this period, there are other obbligato arias, including trombone and violin. Oddly, this was recorded in 2003 and is only being released now. However, this should not deter. This sounds like it could have been recorded yesterday and should not be passed up for any reason. Excellent, a top pick for 2007.