HANDEL Dixit Dominus. BACH Magnificat • Peter Dijkstra (cond); Christina Landshamer (sop); Diana Haller (mez); Maarten Engeltjes (ct); Maximilian Schmitt (ten); Konstantin Wolf (bs); Bayerischen Rundfunks Ch; Concerto Köln (period instruments) • BR 900504 (56:07 Text and Translation)
Handel composed his Dixit Dominus in 1707, the same year that Bach composedRead more his first cantata, Aus der Tiefen rufe ich, Herr, zu dir (BWV 131). Both men were 22 years old and presumably intent on announcing to the world that they were ready to take it on—which both emphatically were. It’s interesting to compare the two works, both harbingers of things to come. Bach’s cantata is appropriately serious and introspective, given its somber text (“Out of the depths…”), whereas Handel’s Psalm, mirroring its text, is rife with fireworks, vocal and choral. Like many another emerging artist he obviously set out to toss everything he knew into the project. There’s nothing wrong with fireworks, as long as they are as skillfully executed as they are here. Peter Dijkstra fans the flame in this high-energy realization. The Gloria Patri, which ends the work, is done at break-neck speed and then some. To call it exhilarating is perhaps an understatement. Yet it’s sung with remarkable precision and gusto by the Bavarian Radio Choir. And it’s not all flash; the duet in the penultimate movement is especially touching, with Christina Landshamer’s soprano soaring ethereally over Diana Haller’s lovely mezzo.
Bach’s Magnificat, originally in E?, dates from 1723 but was later revised and transposed to D, probably some time between 1728 and 1731. Both Bach and Handel, in their early-40s, were at the height of their powers then. Bach was settling in at Leipzig. Handel, in London, was producing Italian operas for his English audiences: Ottone, Giulio Cesare, Rodelinda, Tolomeo. If anything, Bach’s Magnificat, with its high trumpets and kettle drums, is even more magnificent that Handel’s Dixit Dominus. Again maestro Dijkstra draws a vital performance from his talented forces. The choir, 33 strong by my count, is splendid throughout, as is their instrumental counterpart, Concerto Köln. The well-matched solo quintet, named above, is as near to flawless as one could reasonably expect: not a moment of weakness in either work. Overall, this is a deeply satisfying release. Competition for the Dixit Dominus is relatively sparse. Dijkstra’s would be hard to beat. There are many fine Magnificats out there. I’m currently carrying Richard Hickox’s version (Chandos) on my MP3 player. I may have to rethink that.