Handel, Caldara

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Caldara,Handel
LABELS: Deutsche Harmonia Mundi
WORKS: Dixit Dominus; Missa dolorosa; Crucifixus
PERFORMER: Balthasar-Neumann Choir & Ensemble/Thomas Hengelbrock
CATALOGUE NO: 82879 58792-2
Thomas Hengelbrock and the Balthasar-Neumann Choir and Ensemble have scored some notable successes with their recordings and, above all, perhaps with their performance of Lotti’s Requiem Mass in F, Credo and Miserere (Deutsche Harmonia Mundi, reviewed November 1999). While there was no competing version of the Requiem to invite comparison Hengelbrock enters a busy arena with Handel’s youthful and Italianate Dixit Dominus where there are some ten rival recordings in the catalogue. Hengelbrock favours brisk tempos by and large, and these capture the often exuberant character of Handel’s writing for five-part chorus, strings and continuo. It is the choral numbers which come over most convincingly here, with lively responses to the textual imagery contained in Psalm 110, and consistently well-groomed choral discipline. By comparison the two solo arias for alto and soprano, respectively, are a shade monochrome, notwithstanding a sprightly continuo support. In these numbers both John Eliot Gardiner’s later recording of the piece (Philips) and that of Marc Minkowski (DG Archiv) are more successful. Much of what I said about the performance above applies to Caldara’s Mass for four-part choir, soloists and instruments, Missa dolorosa. The work dates from 1735 when Caldara was vice-Kapellmeister at the Viennese court. There are some fine choral and instrumental obbligato contributions among which Elena Bianchi’s delicately shaded bassoon playing deserves mention and Hengelbrock’s direction is stylish and alert to the many nuances of text and music. The performance over all is much more preferable to that of René Clemencic (Naxos). The remaining piece, Caldara’s suspension-laden Crucifixus is one of his best-known compositions and this limpid and very beautiful performance of it sits comfortably in the uppermost reaches of the current league table. Nicholas Anderson