Handel, Ode for the Birthday of Queen Anne / Dixit Dominus, H. Guilmette, A. Scholl, A. Wolf, Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin, Vocalconsort Berlin, M. Creed
(released on October 13, 2009)
Harmonia Mundi HMC 902041 | 56'24"
Still, for the one Dixit dominus to own, the only recording that might challenge Preston is Andrew Parrott's older recording with Emma Kirkby and the Taverner Players (Virgin Classics Veritas). Musically, it is not as satisfying, but the musicological interest is greater, because Parrott situates the Dixit dominus and several other Handel works for Vespers, in the context of an actual (highly speculative) Vespers service (plus, a 2-CD set at $10.98 is a steal too good to pass up). Up against that competition, Harmonia Mundi's new recording features exciting, incisive playing especially, from the Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin, but the choral singing is not as polished. The soloists seem a little mismatched, with countertenor Andreas Scholl struggling at times to make himself heard, and Hélène Guilmette, while lovely at times, is no Arleen Augér. In the other work heard here, the much less recorded Ode for the Birthday of Queen Anne (for the official celebration on February 6, 1713 -- not long before the queen died), the performance is more satisfying from all sides, with only the occasional charming but odd pronunciation of English to be faulted. It is not enough to recommend this disc as a must-listen, but downloading just the Ode would be a good option for anyone looking for a recording of that work alone.