Franz Hauk / Concerto de Bassus / Simon Mayr Chor

Gaetano Donizetti: Vesper Psalms

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It's surprising enough to find a world premiere of a work by a major composer these days, but these psalm settings by Donizetti, written between 1819 and 1820, have apparently never made it beyond manuscript. They are offered here by a chorus and conductor specializing in the work of composer Simon Mayr, Donizetti's teacher. They're attractive works that could punch up any program featuring the likes of Mozart's Mass in C major, K. 317 ("Coronation"). You might not guess Donizetti as the composer, but you would be likely, knowing that a young person wrote these works, to predict that the composer went on to big things. The keys are that Donizetti did not repeat himself in the least, and that he deployed various kinds of music to set the various texts. The overall tone is sunny and cheerful, with uncomplicated diatonic harmonies. Within this framework, Donizetti introduces varying degrees of operatic drama. Sample the comparatively long Dixit Dominus setting for the full range. This psalm, like most of the other longer pieces, give the soloists plenty to do, and soprano Andrea Lauren Brown heads a strong cast. The Simon Mayr Chorus is a precise and bright choir in the German mold, and a church in the Bavarian city of Ingolstadt provides rather boxy but clear sound. Recommended for Donizetti fans.

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