Handel's Dixit Dominus - Wednesday's Free Download from Ensemble Monterey
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Dear Ensemble Monterey Friends - Today's selection is one of my all-time favorites. It's Handel's setting of the religious text, Dixit Dominus. I'm often asked who my favorite composer is and I always answer "whichever one I'm working with right now." It's true, because even if the composer has been dead well over 200 years his/hers genius is alive before you and the unique personality is very much present. Having said that, the real answer is Handel, but don't tell.
Here's the story on Dixit Dominus. Handel was the punk kid just moved to Naples to make in the big-time world of opera. That's were the real money was. He was competing against Domenico Scarlotti, the opera King, and working in Italian, his second language. Think of showing up in LA expecting to write a major movie sound track when John Williams already had the job. To make matters worse, the Pope had banned opera thanks to those nefarious opera singers! What was Handel to do? The answer was he landed a job writing religious music for some high ranking and wealthy church officials. The operatic style of the time was highly florid, very difficult singing which had "showing off" as its major goal. These church officials loved opera and wanted to hear opera-style music, so Handel put all the fireworks he had into this piece. It's nine movements long. Don't despair! The movements are short and spectacular! Every movement is written in a different, well-known opera form, so the Dixit Dominus (my spell checker wants to keep calling it Dixit Dominos) is really Handel's comprehensive resume and job application for later opera jobs. the vocal group on this recording is Cantiamo! conducted by Cheryl Anderson, a close associate.
Handel was the most astute business man we have ever had in music history. When he couldn't write opera he turned it into religious music. Later, In London, when opera fell out of favor, he turned it into the secular oratorio and made a second killing!
I hope you will love this piece as I do. For you music nerds - check out the double fugue in the last movement. It obeys every one of the strict fugue rules. Nothing satisfies like a fugue!
Yours in Music - John Anderson