Handel: Dixit Dominus; Salve regina; Laudate pueri Dominum; Saeviat tellus inter rigores

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COMPOSERS: Handel
LABELS: DG Archiv
WORKS: Dixit Dominus; Salve regina; Laudate pueri Dominum; Saeviat tellus inter rigores
PERFORMER: Soloists; Les Musiciens du Louvre & Choir/Marc Minkowski
CATALOGUE NO: 459 627-2
Dixit Dominus is Handel’s earliest choral masterpiece, its exhilarating mixture of bravura and finesse quickly evident in the stabbing string chords and imploring choral ‘dixit’s that galvanise the opening moments. Composed in Rome in April 1707, it may have been written for Handel’s patron Cardinal Colonna. Laudate pueri and the motet Saeviat tellus were definitely written for Colonna, in July 1707, while Salve regina was probably composed for Handel’s other notable Roman patron, the Marquis Ruspoli, in June 1707. While Laudate pueri is a psalm setting only slightly less grandiose than Dixit Dominus, both Salve regina and Saeviat tellus are smaller in scale and feature lovely passages for solo soprano.

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Marc Minkowski is known for a dramatic panache that has scored some spectacular successes (as in his recording of Ariodante) but has also lead him into excessively extreme tempi. The latter rather undermine his Dixit Dominus: faster speeds are hurried into tuneless bustle, the slower are weighed down by a sense of over-deliberation (though the latter is even more obtrusive in his Salve regina). Simon Preston’s acclaimed 1988 Dixit has cleaner, sharper choruses, a more secure grasp of rhythmic fluency and outstanding soloists in Arleen Auger, Lynne Dawson and Diana Montague. Preston reveals the power and beauty in music that Minkowski, sacrificing shape for speed and the grand gesture, too often reduces to a punchy clamour. Preston and Auger also bring a luminous tenderness to the Salve regina, while doing full justice to the organ-led exuberance of ‘Eia ergo’. Graham Lock