This sacred work by Spanish composer José de
Nebra, which alternates arias and plainchant, recalls Handelís Carmelite
Vespers, written a few years earlier. While this structure may be somewhat
jarring to us modern listeners, it was obviously fairly common in the
18th century. There is also clearly an Italian influence, as the aria
sections are similar in sound and structure to the Italian cantata of
the time, another genre for which Handel was well-known.
If I cite Handel several times, it is because this
music clearly reminds this listener of Handel. Both melodically and
technically, the music and the style of singing are very Handelian.
The two soloists are strong, especially mezzo-soprano Xenia Meijer,
whose voice recalls Magdalena Kozena. Neither of the soloists overdo
vibrato, which is certainly refreshing in this kind of work, and both
of them have enviable ranges and emotional projection.
This is grand music, and, again, as in Handelís music,
the arias fill the ears and heart with magnificent melodies. Sure, that
is perhaps too many references to Handel, but the music is so much like
Handel it is hard to think otherwise. This could be a negative point
as well. It is similar to Handel, but not quite, and some listeners
might not find it "original". Nevertheless, this is a real
pleasure to listen to, and the two soloists are a real advantage.
A fine disc that deserves to be discovered by fans
of Handel and other baroque music. This is a disc to listen to over
and over to appreciate the fine voices on display. This is a beautiful,