The Sixteen adds to its stunning Handel collection with a brand new recording of Dixit Dominus set alongside a little know treasure - Agostino Steffani’s Stabat Mater. Full of virtuosity, vibrant colour and dynamic energy, Handel’s Dixit Dominus captures absolutely the Italian style of the period. Handel’s control of forces is masterly and the range of texture and style is breathtaking. Written during the composer’s time in Italy in the early eighteenth century it is amongst his first autographed works and also one of his finest. By comparison Agostino Steffani’s little known Stabat Mater was one of his last compositions. Written for the Academy of Vocal Music in London, this work is the most powerful expression of Steffani’s religious fervour and, outside opera, his largest, most varied and most heartfelt composition.
Vivaldi's Dixit Dominus, RV 807, was added to the Vivaldi canon only in 2005; it was long attributed to Baldassare Galuppi. That shows you how minor composers don't get their due; it's a marvelous work, but it's only getting recordings now that Vivaldi's name is attached to it. At any rate, it's well worth hearing in this excellent performance by the rising British group La Nuova Musica, which has both vocal and instrumental components. They move like a well-oiled machine, making possible the clear communication of such vivid details as the musical depiction of a stream in the strings in the countertenor aria De torrente in via bibet (track 8) and the unusually elaborate fugue that concludes the work..
David Bates directs La Nuova Musica in a pair of contrasting settings of Psalm 109. Handel's masterful and ambitious HWV282 was penned in 1707 during a youthful visit to Italy. Vivaldi's vivid and economical RV807 (his third Dixit Dominus) was long mistakenly attributed to Baldassare Galuppi; it probably dates from the early 1730s. Rounding out the programme is Vivaldi's dazzling motet for solo voice, "In furore iustissimae irae", featuring soprano Lucy Crowe.
Vivaldi's sacred music is not so famous as that of his contemporaries Bach and Handel, so this is a bargain opportunity to catch up. You might think Vivaldi's playful, virtuoso Italianate character and Catholic context would produce radically different music, but in George Guest's urgent readings, the mixture of restrainedly exultant choruses and austerely beautiful arias are near-identical to Bach.
Pergolesi Year 2010 marks the birth 300 years ago of a first rank composer and singular voice. Claudio Abbado's affinity for Pergolesi is a joy to the ear and balm to the soul. The introductory album of maestro's Pergolesi Project, the famous Stabat Mater, was rapturously received by the press…
Composed to celebrate the birhday of Queen Anne of England, Handel's Ode for the Birthday of Queen Anne was subtitled 'Ode for the Peace' in reference to the Treaty of Utrecht which marked the end of the War of the Spanish Succession. Six years earlier, the 22-year-old composer brought the techniques he learned from writing Italian opera to his scared music. The result was the powerful, intensely passionate Dixit Dominus. Marcus Creed leads the Akademie fur Alte Musik Berlin in definitive readings of these works, which feature the glorious voice of counter-tenor Andreas Scholl.
In terms of emotional impact, Handel's Dixit Dominus and Bach's Magnificat are well matched, both fiery exclamations of religious fervour, both extended works of contrapuntal complexity and soloistic virtuosity, the Bull and the Bear in the ring of one CD. I won't tell where I'd place my wager, but it's high drama to have these two pieces performed together.
What we get is a work steeped in Cimarosa’s operatic experience, but conventionally ‘sacred’ in form. Thus we get to hear all the musical forces at beginning and end of the work, and in between soloists alternate with chorus. The music is, unsurprisingly, very well put together; there are plenty of enticing melodies and the whole has considerable charm. But compared to the great settings of the same Psalm it lacks both profundity and real grandeur of conception. Still, take it on its own terms and there is much to enjoy.