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Antonio Lotti: Vesper Psalms / Jung, Steude, Laabs, Et Al

Release Date: 01/30/2007 
Label:  Cpo   Catalog #: 777180   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Antonio Lotti
Performer:  Annekathrin LaabsBarbara Christina SteudeTobias BerndtDavid Erler
Conductor:  Matthias Jung
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Sächsisches VocalensembleBatzdorfer Hofkapelle
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 8 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

LOTTI Dixit Dominus. Laudate pueri. Credidi. Laudate Dominum Matthias Jung, cond; Barbara Christina Steude (sop); Annekathrin Laabs (sop); David Erler (alt); Tobias Berndt (bs); Sächsisches Vocalensemble; Batzdorfer Hofkapelle (period instruments) cpo 777180 (68:08)

At the turn of the millennium, I hailed in these pages a recording of sacred works by Antonio Lotti (1667–1740) performed by Thomas Hengelbrock and his outstanding Balthasar-Neumann forces (23:3). The particular focus of attention on a disc Read more later included on my Want List was the large-scale F-Major Requiem, my description of the work as a masterpiece having not been modified by the passage of time. Several years later Hengelbrock turned his attention to another major work by Lotti, the so-called Missa sapientiae (it was given the name by Zelenka, who made a copy of it), which if a less dramatic discovery than the Requiem was of importance for again suggesting that Lotti remains the great undiscovered master of 18th-century Venetian music (27:6).

Any hopes that Hengelbrock’s pioneering recordings might have inspired a Lotti revival have remained largely unfilled, but now at last here is another offering that includes at least one work that should assist restoration to his rightful place. Once again it comes from German forces, a fact explained by the Venetian composer’s stay in Dresden, where—between 1717 and 1719—he was at the head of a select Italian troupe engaged by Augustus the Strong. Ostensibly hired for opera performances, Lotti also provided the Catholic monarch with sacred works, a supply the composer maintained after returning to Venice. It is these works, today housed in Dresden, that have provided the content for all the discs mentioned.

The four Vespers psalms recorded here ( Credidi , Psalm 115 does not belong to Sunday Vespers, but was used on the feast of All Saints, and at Corpus Christi) display a wide variety of style and form. Much the most ambitious and expansive is Dixit Dominus , which is cast in 12 movements, and scored for five soloists and a chorus variously divided between four and seven parts.

The invigorating drive of the opening will doubtless remind many listeners of Lotti’s Venetian contemporary Vivaldi, yet in fact, as I’ve noted previously, there are overall surprisingly few points of reference between the two. There are, I think, two reasons for this: one, that Lotti’s interest in (and impressive command of) contrapuntal writing is far greater than Vivaldi’s; and two, that Lotti rarely allows one to forget that as a singer himself he is, unlike Vivaldi, first and foremost a vocal writer. The essential lyricism emerges in the solo quintet answer to that surging opening of Dixit Dominus , a movement that relies on the strong contrast between these two elements. It is even more apparent in “donec ponem,” an exquisitely wrought chain of contrapuntal interweaving scored for a solo quintet of tenors and basses. There are only two true solo numbers, both of which include florid instrumental obbligato parts: “Tecum principum” (alto and oboe) and “Da torrente” (soprano and violin), where the torrent is illustrated with oscillating melismas for the soprano. Perhaps most strikingly original of all is “Juravit Dominus,” where the portentous gravity of the text is underlined by the heavy, off-beat chords separated by pregnant silences forming a bedrock for the long, imposing lines of the chorus’s fugue. This remarkable work is an important addition to the Lotti discography

Laudate pueri is also planned on an expansive scale, being cast in 10 movements, but for considerably smaller forces, the work calling only for SSB soloists without chorus, and an orchestra of strings and a pair of oboes. In keeping with the mood of the text, this bright, joyous work is quite happy to employ dance rhythms (in the lively trio “Suscitans), or floridly colorful movements, such as “Qui habitare,” which finds the two sopranos engaged in happy dialogue with a solo violin. Very different is Credidi , which reverts to strict stile antico choral writing with colla parte (doubling) orchestral accompaniment, the old-fashioned feel enhanced by use of a plainsong quotation as a cantus firmus (in the opening section), a strong flavor of modality, and a complete absence of the kind of sweetly piquant dissonance that is such a characteristic of the famous “Crucifixus.” Finally, the very brief setting of Laudate Dominum is another work of bounding energy, its opening calling to mind the youthful vitality of Handel’s early Italian works.

Matthias Jung’s performances are excellent, brimming with both the verve and lyrical expressivity Lotti’s music demands. His forces may not have quite the polish of the Balthasar-Neumann ensemble, but are none the less exceptionally capable, with particular praise due to nine members of the responsive chorus called upon in solo ensembles. The soloists proper are also a fine team, the two sopranos and bass fully on their mettle in Laudate pueri . The recording, made in the Lukaskirche, Dresden, has plenty of atmosphere and ambiance, although the balance is a bit odd at times (an unrealistically prominent solo violin in “Da torrente,” for example), and you may, as I did, find that the volume needs adjusting down a touch in Laudate pueri . But none of that detracts from a fine CD that should be acquired by anyone interested in Baroque sacred music. Lotti’s music was respected sufficiently to merit the close attention of both Bach and Handel. That should be good enough for us.

FANFARE: Brian Robins
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Works on This Recording

Dixit Dominus by Antonio Lotti
Performer:  Annekathrin Laabs (Soprano), Barbara Christina Steude (Soprano), Tobias Berndt (Bass),
David Erler (Countertenor)
Conductor:  Matthias Jung
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Sächsisches Vocalensemble,  Batzdorfer Hofkapelle
Period: Baroque 
Written: Italy 
Venue:  St. Luke's Church, Dresden, Germany 
Length: 29 Minutes 33 Secs. 
Notes: St. Luke's Church, Dresden, Germany (10/22/2005 - 10/24/2005) 
Laudate Pueri by Antonio Lotti
Performer:  Barbara Christina Steude (Soprano), Tobias Berndt (Bass), Annekathrin Laabs (Soprano)
Conductor:  Matthias Jung
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Batzdorfer Hofkapelle
Period: Baroque 
Written: Italy 
Venue:  St. Luke's Church, Dresden, Germany 
Length: 23 Minutes 46 Secs. 
Notes: St. Luke's Church, Dresden, Germany (10/22/2005 - 10/24/2005) 
Credidi by Antonio Lotti
Conductor:  Matthias Jung
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Sächsisches Vocalensemble,  Batzdorfer Hofkapelle
Period: Baroque 
Written: Italy 
Venue:  St. Luke's Church, Dresden, Germany 
Length: 11 Minutes 4 Secs. 
Notes: St. Luke's Church, Dresden, Germany (10/22/2005 - 10/24/2005) 
Laudate Dominum by Antonio Lotti
Performer:  Annekathrin Laabs (Soprano), David Erler (Countertenor), Barbara Christina Steude (Soprano),
Tobias Berndt (Bass)
Conductor:  Matthias Jung
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Sächsisches Vocalensemble,  Batzdorfer Hofkapelle
Period: Baroque 
Written: Italy 
Venue:  St. Luke's Church, Dresden, Germany 
Length: 4 Minutes 1 Secs. 
Notes: St. Luke's Church, Dresden, Germany (10/22/2005 - 10/24/2005) 

Sound Samples

Dixit Dominus: (Soloists, Chorus)
Dixit Dominus: Donec ponam (Soloists)
Dixit Dominus: Virgam virtutis (Soloists, Chorus)
Dixit Dominus: Tecum principium (Alto)
Dixit Dominus: Juravit Dominus (Chorus)
Dixit Dominus: Dominus a dextris tuis (Chorus)
Dixit Dominus: Judicabit in nationibus (Chorus)
Dixit Dominus: Implebit ruinas (Chorus)
Dixit Dominus: De torrente in via bibets (Soprano)
Dixit Dominus: Gloria Patri (Soloists)
Dixit Dominus: Sicut erat in principio (Soloists, Chorus)
Dixit Dominus: Et in saecula saeculorum (Chorus)
Laudate pueri: (Sopranos, Baritone)
Laudate pueri: Sit nomen Domini (Soprano I)
Laudate pueri: A solis ortu usque ad occasum (Soprano II, Bass)
Laudate pueri: Excelsus super omnes (Soprano I)
Laudate pueri: Quis sicut Dominus (Soprano II)
Laudate pueri: Suscitans a terra (Soloists)
Laudate pueri: Ut collocet eum (Baritone)
Laudate pueri: Qui habitare facit (Sopranos)
Laudate pueri: Gloria Patri (Soprano I, Baritone)
Laudate pueri: Sicut erat in principio (Soloists)
Laudate Dominum

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