Vivaldi, Handel

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Handel,Vivaldi
LABELS: Philips
WORKS: Gloria, RV 589
PERFORMER: Gillian Keith (soprano); Monteverdi Choir, English Baroque Soloists/John Eliot Gardiner
CATALOGUE NO: 462 597-2
In addition to Handel’s Latin psalm Dixit Dominus, a piece which John Eliot Gardiner has previously recorded for Erato, this new release features the composer’s recently rediscovered setting for soprano of the hymn ‘Gloria in excelsis Deo’ and much the better known of two settings of the same text by Vivaldi. Some readers, understandably excited by a new Handel discovery, will already have sought out a recording by Emma Kirkby with the Royal Academy of Music Baroque Orchestra made earlier this year for BIS. The RAM association is appropriate, for it is in its library that the manuscript copy and part-books were discovered. Kirkby’s singing is warmly coloured, translucent and stylish, but the playing of the supporting period instruments, though enjoyable, is inevitably less experienced and therefore less assured than that provided by the impeccably drilled English Baroque Soloists. Though Gillian Keith turns in a lightly articulated and agile performance and possesses an alluring vocal timbre, my preference for Kirkby remains unchallenged – just. This is a very early Handel piece (c1707), for which Anthony Hicks provides an informative background note, well balanced and without making the exaggerated claims for the music that some other authors have done. Unlike the Gloria, the Dixit Dominus survives in the composer’s autograph, dated 1707. This is a fresh and vital performance of an early masterpiece, benefiting from Gardiner’s warm rapport and long acquaintance with the music. Vivaldi’s Gloria succeeds well, too, though I found the rhythmic emphasis of the opening chorus too dogmatic. Katharine Fuge’s ‘Domine Deus, Rex coelestis’ is outstanding for its expressive sensibility, though it is disgraceful that the important oboe obbligatist is uncredited. Nicholas Anderson