Handel's Dixit Dominus

Oct 19, 2017

I am looking forward to my first concert at Baltimore Choral Arts with great anticipation!  I know that together we will have a marvelous musical story to tell for many many years, and it all begins in about 10 days!  Please join me on October 28th at 8:00pm, Kraashaur Auditorium at Goucher College for our first performance of the season.  Tickets can be purchased online at baltimorechoralarts.org or at the door.


You will hear a myriad of choral music on October 28th – some of the program is a window into my musical interests, but virtually everything on the program is music I have never conducted before.  This was intentional; I felt that in the spirit of new beginnings, we should all start this journey on equal footing, that is, no footing at all!  The Choruses and I will both have an entirely new experience in our first performance all-around, and we cannot wait to share it with you!


The smattering of various choral works begin with Randall Thompson’s “Last Words of David” which has text that is fitting for the installation of a new leader.  Haydn’s jolly 10-minute “Te Deum” comes next.  For this concert we are highlighting the work of the International Rescue Committee by performing a set of pieces that focus on refugees, war, and conflict.  A special guest who was resettled in Baltimore with the help of IRC will be on stage to narrate this set which includes Bach, Messiaen, and several others.


The second half is where our evening’s event receives its title: Handel’s “Dixit Dominus” is a truly wild ride, full of twists and turns, robust and aggressive singing, and extremely virtuosic music-making from the combined forces of a string orchestra, continuo complement, and 5 part choir with soloists.  I was first drawn to this piece during my first week living in the UK sitting in rehearsals and a performance of the piece with the Monteverdi Choir, Sir John Eliot Gardiner conducting.  This colossal work plummeted into the concert hall and I was awestruck from the downbeat of the rehearsal right to the final chord of the performance.  I was particularly struck by the variance of Handel’s compositional virtuosity in the piece, the intensity of the text setting throughout, and the brilliance in the fugal and contrapuntal sections – at some points there are 3-4 figures occurring at once, divvied out amongst the different voice parts and the orchestra.  The 34-minute piece is a roller coaster ride and it gives you the impression that someone is giving you a good, angry talking-to for a while. 


Handel was clearly a self-confident 22-year old when he wrote “Dixit Dominus” while studying and working in Rome.  The piece is by far the most difficult thing he ever wrote for voices and is a curious amalgamation of German and Italian styles.  Handel’s compositional voice can be heard, even if only slightly, throughout major sections of the work.


I earnestly hope that you will join us on October 28th for what I know will be a highlight of my musical life.  Come let us give you the gift of this music and our passion for this art form!