HANDEL: Dixit Dominus, HWV 232; CALDARA: Missa dolorosa; Crucifixus a 16 voci — Balthasar-Neumann Chor/Balthasar-Neumann-Ensemble/Thomas Hengelbrock — Deutsche Harmonia mundi

by | Aug 29, 2005 | SACD & Other Hi-Res Reviews | 0 comments

HANDEL: Dixit Dominus, HWV 232; CALDARA: Missa dolorosa;
Crucifixus a 16 voci — Balthasar-NeumannChor/
Balthasar-Neumann-Ensemble/ Thomas Hengelbrock — Deutsche Harmonia
mundi Multichannel SACD 82876 58792 2, 63:05 ****:

One of Handel’s more epic Italianate psalm-cantatas, Dixit Dominus (1707)
was composed for the name day of the Spanish King Felipe V, and it has a
strongly Venetian character in its dispersion of voices and instrumental
effects. Highly chromatic and vocally acrobatic, the writing for high
sopranos is in bravura style, especially in the wild opening to Dominus
a dextris tuis, in which singers extol The Lord for the ubiquity of His
wrath. The instrumental sinfonias enjoy an incisive articulation which is
both spare–with original assignment of one player per part–and hearty,
with a pungent, dramatic flair for Handel’s affects. Alternately
meditative and active imagery resonates throughout the piece, a constant
reminder of Handel’s power over eye-music, where the textural indications
suggest where the music should move. Surround sound buffs will thrill at
the way individual voices and textures seem to come out of nowhere to
launch us into the musical stratosphere. The final section, Gloria Patri
et Filio, opens as though strummed by a consort of lutes, a heavenly feast
of sound which celebrates the worship of the Father, the Son, and the Holy
spirit in their perpetual mystery.

The music of Antonio Caldara (c. 1670-1736) has remained relatively obscure
in spite of the fact that he composed over 3,400 works, many of them for
festive liturgical and state occasions. Composed for the court of Charles
VI, the Missa dolorosa (1735) joins two styles — one of the concerto
grosso, the other of the abbreviated church service. Here the text
represents the Seven Dolors of the Virgin Mary, a feast added to the Roman
calendar by Pope Benedict XIII in 1727. The pleading tone of the work
calls for sighing motifs, chromatic lines, and wistful melismas, all in
the expression of personal, votive piety and faith. The Domini Fili, with
its bassoon and continuo accompaniment, makes a charming sound-byte. The
Crucifixus, not published until 1840, is in four short sections in an
antique style reminiscent of Gesualdo’s motets. The use of the diminished
seventh chord to show pain is an old conceit.  Expressive and urgent, both
Caldara pieces testify to a major talent whom the CD format may rediscover
at will.

–Gary Lemco

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