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Dixit Smackdown!

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(@capriccio)
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Okay, I decided after Handel’s Dixit Dominus made an appearance in multiple topics, we should devote an entire topic to this work.

I’ve  created a Dixit Smackdown playlist on Idagio and I plan to listen to all the versions I can lay my hands on and rate each one. Anyone else who likes can join in, or simply take pot shots from the sidelines. 

All sorts of things go into making a great performance, from choice of tempi to quality of the soloists to best interpretation of the text and so on. I have long-standing biases based on performing the work in the past, but I shall try to set those aside and listen with fresh ears. (Is this doable?)

Feel free to weigh in! 

(Just waiting for the iconoclast who suggests Vivaldi or Cimarosa or some other Johnny come lately did a better job!)


   
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(@dinah)
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Posted by: @capriccio

(Just waiting for the iconoclast who suggests Vivaldi or Cimarosa or some other Johnny come lately did a better job!)

😂😂😂

Not me! I'm a Handel girl all the way, baby!!

 

Curiously, I started my own Dixit Dominus crusade the night before last, @capriccio! (I was rudely interrupted by internet connection problems, though 😠).

Posted by: @capriccio

I have long-standing biases based on performing the work in the past, but I shall try to set those aside and listen with fresh ears. (Is this doable?)

I find it very difficult to overcome my own biases, hope you're better than me in that regard!

I'm curious to learn about your absolute favourite interpretation, since you've performed the work yourself?

 


   
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(@dinah)
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Listening to what Idagio has to offer of Handel's Dixit! (goodness, what a marathon it proved to be!)

A couple of beautiful recordings so far (I think Maestro Gardiner might have a contender!); a couple others that slash their way through it in abnormally disproportionate tempi! 🤨

So far, though, two honorable mentions go to Andreas Scholl and Philippe Jaroussky, superbly singing the alto "Virgam virtutis tuae":

(the recordings themselves are a different matter, in my humble opinion!!!)

https://app.idagio.com/recordings/25877425?trackId=25877450

https://music.apple.com/eg/album/dixit-dominus-ii-aria-virgam-virtutis-tuae/333961128?i=333961538&ls

https://app.idagio.com/recordings/34452298?trackId=34452250

*couldn't find Jaroussky's one on Apple Music, sorry folks. 😞

 


   
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(@capriccio)
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You're way ahead of me, Dinah. I'm back from vacation and working like a mad thing. I hope to catch up on some Dixit listening this weekend. I'm going to start with your recommendations and then work my way through my list.


   
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 Jen
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Idagio has just offered me a playlist inspired by Dixit - I must have listened to more recordings of Dixit at the weekend than I realised! And my preferred recording isn’t even on Idagio 😂.

But the playlist is magnificent: most of Handel’s Chandos Anthems (which I love) and Ode for St Cecilia’s Day; interspersed with Schütz Schwanengesang and Symphoniae sacrae; and a scattering of lovely short choral works by Bach and Telemann.

That will keep me happily entertained for a day or two.  Bravo Idagio!


   
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(@dinah)
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(Disclaimer: the following are my own personal opinions and feelings, no one on this community forum is to be held accountable 😉😂)

 

OK. So, thus far, I've listened to quite a bunch of Dixit Dominus (es), and here are my thoughts about the ones that left a lasting impression (I think I've listened to a number that would last me a couple of lifetimes at least, not that I'm complaining or anything 😂):

 

https://app.idagio.com/albums/347eac44-132a-4869-928b-4e280e87c5e1 (Can't beat the shimmery pure quality of a boys' choir! King's College Choir under the late Cleobury is, as always, superb! And, Michael Chance sings the alto solo, what else would one wish for!)

 

 

https://app.idagio.com/albums/c31dabcf-d58d-4264-b026-19533e3694ca

(beautiful overall, Ian Partridge 👌)

 

 

https://app.idagio.com/albums/d7e1a0e7-d374-4b3c-b8a2-409a96a93fe6

(again, very beautiful, if at times felt a little bit reserved. Trevor Pinnock, Westminster Abbey Choir and the English Concert! A delightful collaboration!)

 

 

https://app.idagio.com/albums/2105fb64-66f3-4b42-925b-84989633a0b0

(don't know what to say, it felt strange, but enjoyable... at times🤷‍♀️)

 

 

https://app.idagio.com/albums/c81f8d20-7e40-4f25-85a0-9314a1d4a735

(this one I really really wanted to like, but I guess it's not the one for me! The tempo was very fast, but then it felt as if Herr Scholl had put his foot down and insisted the Maestro slow it a bit for the alto solo, which was absolutely delightful, then the conductor takes the reins once more and runs away with it!)

 

 

https://app.idagio.com/albums/354c585c-cc2f-4db6-902f-a1d7f4775ebe

(again, ahem, not my cup of tea! Stange tempo there! Philippe Jaroussky, being the always amenable chap that he is, I would imagine, seems to go with the flow. He makes the best out of Ms. Haïm's choice, and the result is a magnificent delivery, the best part of the recording, in my humble opinion!)

 

 

I've listened to many other beautiful interpretations, but these were the ones that made me stop and think, sometimes listened to them more than once.

Final verdict?!

The ones I'll always be grabbing when I want to get my fix of Handel's Dixit Dominus would be Cleobury's and my original go to, Gardiner’s:

https://app.idagio.com/albums/2850bdc5-a7c3-4c14-bff5-6c63363f7ce4


   
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(@capriccio)
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I'm still working on my list @dinah. I have a spreadsheet inn the making! But work has been so hectic I haver had a chance to get what I feel is a proper sample. So far, the 1991 recording with The Sixteen is topping my charts. 


   
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(@dinah)
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Posted by: @capriccio

I'm still working on my list @dinah. I have a spreadsheet inn the making! But work has been so hectic I haver had a chance to get what I feel is a proper sample.

I feel you there @capriccio . It's quite a monumental task, listening to as many recordings as possible of one work!

I would really like to hear your opinion on Cleobury's when you get the chance.


   
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 Jen
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Posted by: @capriccio

So far, the 1991 recording with The Sixteen is topping my charts. 

Yes, another vote for this recording; I like the attack, the tempi and the comparatively nimble performance. However, I prefer the recording quality and, in particular the alto soloist in the Christophers/Sixteen’s later recording.  But one or the other of these is my preferred Dixit.

And agreed, @Dinah, the Jordi Savall interpretation sounded rather odd to my ears too 🤷🏻‍♀️.  I’d also had higher hopes for the recordings featuring Andreas Scholl and Philippe Jaroussky, but wasn’t entirely convinced by either…

I’m thinking that the best recording of Dixit has yet to be made 😉 


   
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(@dinah)
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Posted by: @jen

However, I prefer the recording quality and, in particular the alto soloist in the Christophers/Sixteen’s later recording.  

Which one would that be, @Jen?

 

Posted by: @jen

I’m thinking that the best recording of Dixit has yet to be made 😉 

I agree! Each one of these, and others, has its merits, but one is left wondering: if I could take this part and this part and this part.... and put them all together 🤔, now that would make the perfect Dixit!

 


   
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 Hugh
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Posted by: @dinah

Which one would that be

I think this is it on Apple

https://music.apple.com/gb/album/handel-dixit-dominus-steffani-stabat-mater/333923559


   
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 Jen
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Yes, that’s the one. Thanks Hugh!


   
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Thanks @hugh 🙏


   
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 Hugh
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@dinah I've only listened to that recording and the 1999/2001 one by Gardiner and chums. Here's a link to my comments:
https://lifeisclassical.com/community/postid/530/


   
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(@capriccio)
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Posted by: @dinah

(Can't beat the shimmery pure quality of a boys' choir! King's College Choir under the late Cleobury is, as always, superb! And, Michael Chance sings the alto solo, what else would one wish for!)

 

@dinah Yes to those beautiful boys' voices! I think they're perfect for the work. There are some mixed choirs who do Dixit justice, but somehow the King's College choir seem like a perfect fit.

Other things I love about this recording:

  • The reverb! Recording in King's College really adds to the work.
  • Perfect diction.
  • The tempi. Not too slow, not too fast.
  • The soloists. I'd give them about an 8/10. Prefer them to the Harry Christopher 1991 soloists. And they do a delicious job in the De torrente.

Sometimes, I think getting the tempi right is about 90% of a good Dixit. Especially in the Dixit Dominus, the Dominus a dextris tuis (including the Conquassabit), and the Gloria Patri, the tempo is critical. There's plenty of leeway: for instance Gardiner takes things a touch slower than Cleobury and I love the oomph he puts into the work - when God gets to whacking heads you can feel the force behind it!

Harry Christopher takes things a bit faster than Cleobury, especially in the Dominus a dextris tuis, but not overly fast. The driving force is terrific.

But there are a lot of performances out there that destroy the work by choosing ridiculous tempi. For example, I stumbled across the following recording when I was search for music by Frescobaldi.

https://app.idagio.com/albums/sacred-handel-music-for-the-carmelite-vespers

Oh, dearie me! Did they have a train to catch? 

It's definitely a strange album - some really fascinating music with weirdly idiosyncratic performances. Check out the De torrente for one example.


   
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