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Briefly Noted: The Lord Said to My Lord

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Handel / Vivaldi, Dixit Dominus, L. Crowe, La Nuova Musica, D. Bates

(released on April 9, 2013)
HMU 807587 | 66'38"
This setting of Dixit Dominus -- Psalm 109, in the Divine Office the first psalm at solemn Vespers on Sunday -- is the third known to have been composed by Antonio Vivaldi. It was discovered in Dresden only in 2005, because the work had long been wrongly attributed to Baldassare Galuppi, but it has already received a handful of recordings. This one, by the relatively new HIP ensemble La Nuova Musica, is not the best performance because the soloists are good but not great, but it has a particularly lovely Gloria patri movement for two sopranos, who are the best of the consort of soloists. I would never guess that the work's rather unusual, contrapuntal Amen is by Vivaldi, but Michael Talbot, the greatly esteemed Vivaldi scholar who wrote this disc's booklet notes, insists that it is. It is hard to top the 2006 recording made by Peter Kopp in Dresden, where the work is matched by three other psalm settings actually by Galuppi. It is paired here with one of Vivaldi's spectacular motets, In furore iustissimae irae, an excellent piece of music for which I return again and again to the recording by Simone Kermes and the Venice Baroque Orchestra (Archiv, 2007). Here Lucy Crowe adds equally mind-blowing embellishments, just not with quite the same laser-accuracy as Kermes. Handel's setting of the Dixit Dominus psalm is one of the best ever composed, made during his visit to Rome in 1707, a tantalizing taste of what might have been had he stayed in Catholic Italy. As primarily a choral work it is much better suited to the strengths of La Nuova Musica, which sounds best singing as a chorus, especially on the long lines of the psalm tone that Handel weaves so ingeniously into the score. This is an often brilliant performance, featuring some unusually fast tempos and agile voices, but not one that stands out all that much from an already crowded field.

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