Gramophone Review

HANDEL Dixit Dominus BACH & SCHÜTZ Motets

Showing that Toronto is not the only Canadian city capable of producing superb period ensembles, the Ottawa Bach Choir, conducted by founding director Lisette Canton, have combined with Matthias Maute’s Ensemble Caprice from Montreal in eloquent, persuasive performances of Handel, Schütz and Bach. The two have teamed up before, most notably in 2016, when they played in Beijing and Shanghai, and this is reflected in how easily they move to the heart of the music’s spiritual message, and how organically they integrate their HIP knowledge in order to communicate that message.

Their performance of Handel’s Dixit Dominus also gets the young composer’s precocious power and the passion of his utterances. From the exuberant, rigorous physicality of the opening chorus and the clear enunciation of the singing, the choir sing as if the words were actually being listened to and reflected upon by an engaged congregation.

The Canadian countertenor Daniel Taylor’s sweet-toned singing of ‘Virgam virtutis tuae’ is one of a number of lovely vocal contributions, another being sopranos Kayla Ruiz and Kathleen Radke’s exquisite ‘De torrente in via bibet’. There is splendid instrumental work throughout, including Jean-Christophe Lizotte’s cello solo in the ‘Virgam’. And the choir show their virtuosity and staying power in the fugue that concludes the ‘Gloria Patri, et Filio’.

The Schütz songs are similarly vivid and engaged, but even so the grandeur of Bach’s motet is staggering and movingly performed. The sound is captured splendidly by Montreal’s own ATMA Classique label in the audiophile space of Saint-Jean-Baptiste Church in Ottawa.

Laurence Vittes

© September 2019 Gramophone

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