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Antonio LOTTI (1667-1740)

Dixit Dominus in G minor [8:30]
Miserere in C minor [26.20]
Missa Sancti Christophori [31:21]
Credo in G minor [13:16]
The Syred Consort
Orchestra of St Pauls/Ben Palmer
rec. 7-8 October 2015, All Hallows’ Church, Gospel Oak, London, England
DELPHIAN DCD34182 [79:28]

To the extent that he is known at all, Antonio Lotti, is best remembered for a couple of heart-wrenching settings of the Crucifixus text from the Credo section of the Mass. Not only does this disc do a valuable service in enabling listeners to hear more of this composer (who served as Maestro di Capella at St. Mark’s, Venice), but it sets in direct context the wider work from which the better-known of those Crucifixus settings was extracted.

Compared with the choral music of his older and younger Baroque contemporaries such as Alessandro Scarlatti and Handel, Lotti sets his texts in a generally more terse, brisk manner – it is instructive, for example, to compare the setting of the Dixit Dominus on this disc with those by the composers just mentioned. There is often the sort of elegance in Lotti’s music which looks ahead to the Rococo style, and the efficiency of his word-setting in the Mass here perhaps anticipates Mozart’s and Haydn’s early examples. Other works betray an obvious Italianate fluency with melody, and the Miserere occupies a similar sound world to the Stabat Mater settings by Vivaldi and Pergolesi for instance.

The four works on this disc are sung by the Syred Consort with exemplary vitality. Usually, that is, with a crisp, even stark, attack on the music, rather than being sensuously indulgent. The interweavings of the florid polyphonic lines of the final fughetto in the Credo and in the Dixit Dominus at times sound as though they lock together with mechanical regularity; the arresting harmonies in such sections as ‘Judicabit in nationibus’ of the Dixit Dominus are not exaggerated or lent into heavily, and there is a smooth, polished veneer of sound from the Orchestra of St. Paul’s, who consist solely of strings and chamber organ here. The famous Crucifixus setting for 8 voices from the Missa Sancti Christophori is a good case in point, as the aching suspensions are treated like smooth blocks of marble, and the homophonic quavers which follow are executed buoyantly, rather than with the jagged staccato sometimes heard. The silvery tone of the strings sometimes evokes the timbre of a viol consort, and that is heard to good effect in the ‘Et in Spiritum sanctum’ section of the G minor Credo.

The acoustical setting of All Hallows’ Church, Gospel Oak, gives a sense of mellow spaciousness in which the sound can revolve, but without the contrapuntal detail becoming lost. That works particularly well in those sections which are boldly and urgently directed by Ben Palmer to characterise the direction of the music, such as the emphatic opening of the standalone Credo, or that from the full Mass. The corresponding subtlety of the Orchestra’s attack is exemplified in the accompanying chords of ‘Ecce enim iniquitatibus’ from the Miserere which are not hammered out but nevertheless give that movement impulsion.

This disc is a creditable achievement not only on the part of all the performers concerned, but also that of Ben Byram-Wigfield whose researches into Lotti’s music have made possible the realisations here. Fans of Baroque and choral music will surely stand in their debt for the revelation of a musical personality who speaks with a directness that is both beguiling and compelling.

Curtis Rogers



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