musica Dei donum

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"Antonio Vivaldi: Dixit Dominus"

Lucia Cirilloa, Roberta Invernizzib, soprano; Silvia Kohlenbrennerc, Sara Mingardod, contralto; Paul Agnewe, Thomas Cooleyf, tenor; Sergio Forestig, Georg Zeppenfeldh, bass
Körnerscher Sing-Verein, Dresdner Instrumental-Concert
Dir: Peter Kopp

rec: January 2006, Dresden, Lukaskirche
Archiv - 00289 477 6145 (© 2006) (68'28")

Baldassare Galuppi (1706-1785): Lauda Jerusalembdh; Laetatus sumabdg; Nisi Dominusabd; Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741): Dixit Dominus (RV 807)abcdef

When the music of Vivaldi was rediscovered, about 50 years ago, only his instrumental music was performed. It took some time to discover that the master of the Italian concerto also had composed religious music worth performing and recording. Since then some of his religious compositions have reached considerable popularity. Among Vivaldi's religious output there are quite a number of works for the Vesper liturgy. Dixit Dominus, a setting of Psalm 110 (109), is one of them. So far two settings of this text by Vivaldi were known, RV 594 and 595. The RV number of the setting recorded here shows it is a late discovery and was only recently added to the catalogue.

The booklet doesn't quite make clear whether this piece was known before or was only discovered recently. It is clear, though, that it wasn't immediately recognized as a composition by Vivaldi, as in the manuscript it was attributed to Baldassare Galuppi. In the 1750's or 1760's the Roman-Catholic court in Dresden was looking for new religious music from Italy. Some music was ordered from the best-known copying shop in Venice, which was owned by a priest, Don Giuseppe Baldan. He sent some pieces by Vivaldi, but attributed them to Baldassare Galuppi, by then the most famous composer in Venice, and generally known by his nickname, 'Buranello'. This Dixit Dominus was only identified as a work by Vivaldi in 2005 by the Australian scholar Janice Stockigt. It is one of four compositions by Vivaldi from the Sächsische Staatsbibliothek in Dresden which are falsely attributed to Galuppi. It is a long and brilliant composition, which is divided into choruses and solo passages, often of a very virtuosic character. The tenor aria 'Dominus a dextris tuis', for instance, is like a movement from a violin concerto: the tenor gets hardly any time to breathe. Paul Agnew deals with this problem admirably. There is some text expression as well: the second movement ('Donec ponam'- "I shall make of your enemies a footstool for you") is dominated by descending figures, and the solo part is appropriately given to the alto. The orchestra depicts the rippling of the water in the 8st movement ('De torrente'): "He will drink from a brook by the way ...".

In the booklet Vivaldi expert Michael Talbot explains what the reasons are to believe that this piece was composed by Vivaldi. But even when one doesn't read his arguments and just listens to the work itself its Vivaldian character is obvious. It is very hard to believe, for instance, that the tenor aria I referred to before could been written by someone other than Vivaldi.
Even if this piece had been composed by Baldassare Galuppi there would be no reason to ignore it, considering its excellent quality. And the remaining compositions on this disc - also three Psalm settings which are part of the Vesper service, this time really written by Galuppi - are of considerable quality as well, and show that Galuppi was a fine composer. Stylistically they belong to a different era, which is demonstrated by the frequent alternation of soli and tutti within movements. "This flexibility looks forward to the church music of Joseph Haydn and his contemporaries, who undoubtedly learned a lot from Galuppi, technically and aesthetically", Michael Talbot writes. It has to be added, though, that there is alternation of this kind in some movements of Vivaldi's Dixit Dominus as well, which have led to the assumption this setting is a work from late in Vivaldi's career.

In Galuppi we find some interesting text illustration as well: in Nisi Dominus the orchestra depicts the flight of the arrow ("like arrows in the hand of the mighty are the children of one's youth"). Melismas are written on words like 'somnum' (sleep - Nisi Dominus) and 'aquae' (waters - Lauda Jerusalem). And 'panem doloris' (bread of sorrows) is expressed by dissonance chords. One of the most moving parts is the 'Gloria patri' from Nisi Dominus, set as an aria for soprano, breathtakingly sung by Roberta Invernizzi.

The music on this disc is of great beauty, and receives the best possible performance here. I have only mentioned two of the soloists by name, but the others are just as good. I knew the choir from recordings with German music, and I had a positive impression of its quality, but here it even surpasses its previous performances. And the Dresdner Instrumental-Concert gives a strong and colourful reading of the orchestral parts, showing performing Italian music appropriately isn't a prerogative of Italian orchestras.

Johan van Veen (© 2007)

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