The sticker emblazoned on the front of Archiv Produktion's Vivaldi: Dixit Dominus proclaims this as a "World-premiere recording of the work scholars are calling the 'the most important Vivaldi discovery in 75 years.'" That takes a little bit of qualification, though not much -- inside, Vivaldi scholar Michael Talbot clarifies that this Dixit is "arguably the best non-operatic work from Vivaldi's pen to come to light since the discovery, in the 1920s, of the major part of the composer personal archive." That makes a bit more sense, as the field of Baroque performance practice in the early years of the twenty first century is largely defined by the revival of Vivaldi's once totally neglected operatic and solo vocal output.
It must seem to a lot of listeners like there is a new Vivaldi discovery every five minutes; after all, it was only in 2004 that Hyperion issued Nisi Dominus, RV 803, then proclaimed as "Vivaldi's latest work." One of the reasons these Vivaldi discoveries seem to be coming so thick and fast is that they are all from the same source, a group of manuscripts in the Sächsische Landesbibliothek Staats- und Universitätsbibliothek Dresden copied under the direction of eighteenth century priest Dom Giuseppe Baldan. Baldan came up short on scores by the most popular sacred composer of his day, Baldassare Galuppi, and substituted, under Galuppi's name, some rather old-fashioned sounding sacred settings supplied by his assistants, who just happened to be from among Antonio Vivaldi's nephews. With the appearance of Dixit Dominus, RV 608, this seems to exhaust the four "Galuppi/Vivaldi" scores known in Dresden, but this does not preclude the possibility that yet more of Baldan's handiwork may exist elsewhere. Professor Talbot's cautious choice of the phrase "arguably the best" is a good one; Dixit Dominus is the most expansive of the four "Galuppi/Vivaldi" scores, but Nisi Dominus, RV 803, while shorter, might be a bit more emotionally fulfilling as a work; it is too soon to call for a qualitative standpoint.
The inclusion here of the three genuine sacred works of Galuppi -- Laetatus sum, Nisi Dominus, and Lauda Jerusalem -- makes obvious why it is ridiculous to ascribe works such as Dixit Dominus, RV 608, to Galuppi. Vivaldi's music is clearly, ruggedly Baroque; Dixit is full of turbulent, tumbling rhythms, vivid text painting, and concludes with an ambitious fugal section, whereas Galuppi favors a clean, clear-cut melodic line and the gentle rhythmic lilt of the style galant. The performances here, by the ad hoc Körnerscher Sing-Verein Dresden and Dresdner Instrumental-Concert and soloists under the general direction of Peter Kopp, are very good -- not wholly transparent, but the weightiness of some of these interpretations helps provide some stability to the texturally slender Galuppi. One impression the listener goes away with from Vivaldi: Dixit Dominus is how fine these Galuppi works are, and one is grateful to have heard them. Soprano Roberta Invernizzi and contralto Sara Mingardo give standout performances in Galuppi's Nisi Dominus in particular. Nevertheless, all true Vivaldians will want to hear this "new" Dixit Dominus -- it IS a major discovery in terms of Vivaldi's sacred music, and the performance manages to touch all of the required bases.