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Händel: Gloria; Dixit Dominus [Import]

G.F. Handel Audio CD
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
Price: CDN$ 22.85 & FREE Shipping on orders over CDN$ 25. Details
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Handel made the headlines in March 2001, when London's Royal Academy of Music publicized the rediscovery in its own collection--under the musical world's collective nose, as it were--of a previously unknown work by the composer. The Times got so carried away as to call the piece "the new Messiah." Gloria consists of seven movements scored for solo soprano with two violin parts and basso continuo, lasting about 16 minutes, most likely written before the composer was 22 years old. This does not a mighty masterwork make, however pretty the writing or flashy the coloratura. Some of the writing is quite attractive--the jaunty opening movement, the appropriately gentle "Et in terra pax," and the lilting "Gratias agimus" are a few examples. As for the coloratura, each of the fast movements has some; the final movement is full of it--and just listening to Emma Kirkby whiz through those roulades can leave a listener breathless. The Divine Miss Em is in very fine form here, with clear tone, impressive accuracy in leaps and runs, and phrasing as eloquent and musical as any singer's. The Gloria may not be first-rung, or even second-rung, Handel--it lacks a certain spark that even similar works like Saeviat tellus and the Salve Regina have--but it's hard to imagine anyone else making a better case for it.

The world premiere recording of the Gloria was made just several weeks before the release date. In order to hit that deadline, Bis filled out the CD with a 1986 recording of Handel's lively setting of the Psalm Dixit Dominus, also written while the young Handel was in Italy. Any recording featuring the young Anne Sofie von Otter is worth hearing, and soprano Hillevi Martinpelto is a worthy colleague. Perhaps the Stockholm Bach Choir sounds a bit woollier than ideal, and some of conductor Anders Öhrwall's tempos are a tad too moderate for this exuberant Roman music. But this Swedish Dixit Dominus is quite creditable, if not as exciting as those by Andrew Parrott and Marc Minkowski. But then, you're probably not buying this CD for the Dixit Dominus. --Matthew Westphal


Customer Reviews

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Most helpful customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Still we have new works... May 23 2003
It's wonderful that we still occasionally see works by long-dead masters being discovered during our lifetime. This newly-discovered Handelian 'Gloria' may not set the world on fire, but it's still a fine work, and Emma Kirkby does her usual stylistic interpretation with aplomb. At times her vocal production seems a little too "forward in the head" but I guess that's a beautiful thing to some.
I bought the disk because I've always been a huge fan of 'Dixit Dominus', written by Handel when he was only 22, and a very appealing work indeed. While this is not the greatest rendition I have heard, it is still well-worth the purchase price. Some of the solo singing is just exquisite, and the ensemble lines are tight and vigorous.
Just a wee complaint: 'De Torrente in Via' is marked Adagio, but this seems to clip along at a fair pace, which somewhat robs the glorious soprano duet suspensions of their power. However, this is a minor gripe, and this recording often gets played in my house.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A benchmark account of Handel's 'Gloria' June 17 2002
Emma Kirby's radiant performance on the premiere recording of Handel's rediscovered 'Gloria' is well worth the entrance price. The Royal Academy's Baroque Orchestra also give a strong performance, albeit one lacking the richer tones of John Eliot Gardiner's period ensemble on the Philips (462 597-2) recording which appeared a couple of months later. By Handel's standards this a fairly straight setting of a traditional text, but all the expected flourishes, trills, sustains and extended runs are there to add the colour we would expect. The outcome is a splendid combination of required simplicity and appropriate elaboration.
Gardiner's 'Dixit Dominus' is superior to the well-known archive one on this recording, which comes across a little flat. It would have been good if the Academy could have produced a third Handel work to supplement the 'Gloria' - perhaps a Motet like 'Saeviat tellus inter rigores' or the Psalm 'Nisi Dominus'. Gardiner tags on the Vivaldi 'Gloria' instead. But it is something of a curious afterthought, and given the choice of the two I would definitely plump for this CD if it is the Handel you are after.
A couple of other recordings have become available since this release and the Philips one. The Gottingen Handel Festival Edition is a live recording from their 3 June 2001 gala performance with Dominique Labelle, soprano, the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra, and conductor Nicholas McGegan. And the Baroque Academy of Montreal offer another period instrument rendition on Atma Classique (ACD2 2215), accompanied by the Bach and Vivaldi settings. However, Emma Kirby remains the benchmark.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Great performances of wonderful music Nov. 5 2001
I have loved Emma Kirby's voice since I first heard her live in 1980 here in Ann Arbor, Michigan. She was the soprano soloist in a rather revolutionary performance of Handel's "Messiah". The whole chrous,orchestra,and the soloists totaled about 40 performers. It was wonderful to be part of such a small chorus and to perform with soloists as wonderful as Ms. Kirkby.
Here we have her wonderful pure voice with tremendous facility and expressiveness. While the pieces total only 16 minutes or so, what wonderful minutes they are! You simply owe it to yourself to hear her sing this.
The "Dixit Dominus" is a piece I was unfamiliar with and found myself absolutely captivated by it. Track 14 is a wonderful piece with four soloists and chorus that is Handel at his most unbuttoned. I find myself listening it to it over and over again with haunted delight.
This is the kind of music that stays in your head and heart and you find yourself trying to hum it as you listen to it run through your mind. Just great!
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