An unusual coupling, this, reflecting the fact that the recording comes from a concert, given in the Auditori in Barcelona. The ordering, too, is more ‘concert’ than ‘disc’, with the star piece – Handel’s dazzling Dixit Dominus – at the end rather than up at the front. Still, it’s interesting to be able to compare these versions of the much-set psalm, despite the fact that (or perhaps especially as) it’s unlikely that any of the composers involved could have known the others’ settings. Vivaldi’s is one of two that he made, and though it borrows some of its music from other composers, it is typically and brightly Vivaldian, its most striking moments being a portentous solo trumpet to evoke the Last Judgement, and gently trickling strings for ‘He will drink of the torrent’. Mozart’s much shorter teenage setting comes with a similar-length Magnificat, and is somewhat conventional and functional, albeit with a joyful trumpet-and-drum feel.
The performances of all three pieces have an overall character that contrasts with the tendency these days for hard-driven interpretations, especially in the Handel. Thus it is refreshing to find Handel’s ‘Dominus a dextris tuis’ allowed to build a grand crescendo towards its end instead of hurtling wildly towards the brink, or for the countertenor solo ‘Virgam virtutis’ – sometimes rather rudely dashed off – given time and shape. Yet while it is also nice that the tumultuous final ‘Gloria Patri’ can work its magic without turning into a shouting match, there is a general low energy across the disc that I suspect will frustrate many listeners. This is largely due to the sound balance, in which soloists and chorus are somewhat recessed against a bass-heavy orchestra, but the choir of 20 also seem to suffer moments of underprojection that come across as almost timid. An individualistic and essentially musical approach then, as one might expect from Savall, but not necessarily one to live with.