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CD booklet
HANDEL: Dixit Dominus BACH & SCHÜTZ: Motets

American Record Guide
July 22, 2019

The recent flow of recordings of Handel’s Dixit Dominus has brought the recognition that this Psalm setting of 1707 was the composer’s first great choral masterpiece.

I have lost track of how many recordings it has been given, but I can say that this new one is among the very best. The Ottawa Bach Choir, a 21-member mixed-voice group, digs into the work with wonderful enthusiasm and strength, capturing all its exuberance. With the addition of countertenor Daniel Taylor, the soloists come from the choir ranks and they are quite good.

Choices amid competition for this halfhour work will partly depend on what other material is paired with it. Here five brief Passion motets from the 1625 publication of the Cantiones Sacrae of Heinrich Schutz are offered. This entire program was recorded in May 2018, but the choir sounds different here—more dense and constricted. The composer’s use of post-Renaissance polyphony and madrigalian textures seems to dampen the performers’ precision and clarity.

For the finale, Canton and her choir turn to their namesake, JS Bach, with his Komm, Jesu, Komm, one of his unaccompanied motets. These musicians are beautifully attuned to the music’s richly contrapuntal eight-voice double choir texture.

There really was space for more music here, and I wish more had been added (like another Bach motet).

© 2019 American Record Guide  

The WholeNote
March 27, 2019

The Ottawa Bach Choir and Ensemble Caprice join forces in this recording for thrilling performances of Baroque masters Handel, Bach and Schutz. From the outset of Dixit Dominus, the quick pace and precision with which the chorus deftly moves through Handel’s ever-running and cascading phrases is aweinspiring. Daniel Taylor guests for the alto aria Virgam virtutis in which the interplay between his golden voice and the continuo instruments is sublime. Soprano Kathleen Radke maintains a wonderfully relaxed vocal line through the execution of elaborate lines in Tecum principium in die virtutis and later she and Kayla Ruiz create enchanting chemistry in the soaring duet De torrente in via bibet.

Looking back almost a century, next on the recording are rarely heard Passion Motets from Heinrich Schutz’s Cantiones Sacrae. Heavily influenced by Italian madrigals of the time, Lisette Canton coaxes the full anguish of the thematic material from the choir in emphasizing dissonances and highly expressive rhetoric. The recording ends with homage to the choir’s eponym. In Bach’s Komm, Jesu, komm, excellent recording technique and choice of venue shine through, with a lovely resonance from the start and an erudite interchange captured in the dialogue of a choir divided into two sections by the composer.

Dianne Wells – The WholeNote