John Eliot Gardiner
Gloria - Vivaldi
Cantata No 4 Christ lag in Todesbanden - Bach
Dixit Dominus - Handel
Handel's Dixit Dominus is an early work, dating from the composer's time in Italy. A bold, audacious piece, assured, declamatory and dramatic, it was also a perfect piece to demonstrate the special qualities of the English Baroque Soloists and the Montever di Choir. Gardiner produced a performance of electric vitality and clarity in which very detail of Handel's counterpoint, every accompanying figure, every rhythm, was clearly etched. But one always felt that the performance was projecting the inherent drama of the music, never that it was aiming at effect for its own sake.
Bach's Cantata Christ lag in Todesbanden likewise dates from its composer's early 20s. In the short but expressive orchestral introduction Gardiner produced an expressive quality and a feeling of personal identification with the music which I had missed in an efficient but somehow uninvolved account of Vivaldi's Gloria. Once again this was a performance of miraculous clarity and accomplishment. Tempi which might have been brisk by comparison with other performances seemed entirely natural. Every semiquaver in the chorus Es war ein wunderlicher Krieg was in place, and was sung with lightness and assurance, a revelation of what has in other performances been made to seem impenetrable counterpoint.
The solo parts in all three works were taken, very well, by members of the choir.