Handel: Gloria; Dixit Dominus

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Handel
LABELS: BIS
WORKS: Gloria; Dixit Dominus
PERFORMER: Emma Kirkby, Hillevi Martinpelto (soprano), Anne Sofie von Otter (mezzo-soprano); RAM Baroque Orchestra/Laurence Cummings, Stockholm Bach Choir, Drottningholm Baroque Ensemble/Anders Öhrwall
CATALOGUE NO: CD-1235
Handel’s rediscovered Gloria is a lovely, exuberant piece that demands bravura virtuosity from its singer. Scholarly consensus suggests it is a youthful work, probably composed in Rome in 1707 – an extraordinarily prolific year for Handel, in which he wrote his first oratorio (Il trionfo), his first Italian opera (Rodrigo), numerous secular cantatas (notably Armida abbandonata) and several outstanding sacred works, including the Dixit Dominus, Salve regina and Nisi Dominus. In the context of such a dazzling outpouring, the 16-minute Gloria is a relatively minor work, albeit a highly enjoyable one.

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Written for soprano, strings and continuo, it’s performed on this world premiere recording by a large, 18-piece ensemble, with Simon Standage playing the florid first violin part that Handel possibly intended for Corelli. Emma Kirkby sings throughout with thrilling authority, the diamantine purity of her voice unfazed by the high B flats, melismas and trills that Handel requires as he boldly contrasts flamboyant jubilation (‘Gloria’) with tender reverence (‘Domine Deus’) and desolate entreaty (‘Qui tollis’).

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So far, top marks. But what a shame BIS has filled the greater part of this CD by reissuing a lacklustre 1986 performance of the Dixit Dominus that is further spoiled by a murky, cavernous acoustic. Graham Lock