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Commentary

Antonio Vivaldi
11 Aug 2005

Unearthed Vivaldi Aria Premiered in Australia

Today at the University of Melbourne, an excerpt from Vivaldi's newly discovered choral setting of Psalm 110 ("Dixit Dominus") received its modern premiere, marking an historic occasion not only for musicologists but for the field in general.

By Carlo Vitali [Musical America]

Countertenor Christopher Field performed "De torrente in via bibet," an aria for alto and strings from the work's ninth movement, at the Faculty of Music's Melba Hall, with Linda Kent conducting the school's Baroque ensemble. Dr. Janice Stockigt, a musicologist at the University, recently identified the 11-movement piece for choir, soloists and orchestra, capping a five-year research project in Dresden's Saxon State Library. She says the score formerly had been attributed to Vivaldi's younger Venetian contemporary Baldassarre Galuppi.

Stockigt's finding that this "Dixit Dominus" was in fact Vivaldi's was subsequently confirmed by Michael Talbot, a leading expert on the composer and professor emeritus at the University of Liverpool. Though the work is but one of his three extant Psalm 100 settings, its importance in the study of his overall oeuvre is paramount. The spectactular choral fugue concluding the piece on the words "Sicut erat in principio," for example, overturns the traditionally accepted notion that Vivaldi didn't care much for strict counterpoint.

Indeed, Talbot has declared it the most significant Vivaldi discovery in 75 years. And Professor Warren Bebbington, Dean of the Melbourne Faculty of Music, forecasts that "Vivaldi lovers the world over will be excited to hear this brilliant work, all thanks to Jan Stockigt's intrepid research."

The project that yielded Stockigt's find, funded by the Australian Research Council, aims to identify and analyse the repertory of the Catholic court church of the Saxon capital, Dresden, during the 18th century. In her research she examined countless dozens of surviving manuscripts.

The setting is the fourth newly identified Vivaldi sacred work to have turned up in the Dresden Library in the last 20 years, thanks mostly to the joint efforts of Stockigt and Talbot. In each case, the piece belonged to a large consignment of sacred vocal works supplied to the Saxon court during the 1750s by Venetian copyist Giuseppe Baldan, a notorious falsifier of attributions out of commercial convenience. Vivaldi being dead and forgotten for the last decade, Baldan could reap additional profits from the composer's works by recycling them far from their original performance site (Venice) under the name of the more contemporary and thus fashionable Galuppi, whose name is proudly inscribed on the title-pages. The contrivance led astray not only Baldan's patrons, but also modern librarians and scholars.

Plans are afoot for the Koernerscher Sing-Verein Dresden to give the complete "Dixit Dominus" its modern premiere in Dresden, as part the city's forthcoming 800th anniversary celebrations.

Copyright 2005, Commonwealth Business Media, Inc.

This report is reprinted with the kind permission of Musical America, the "Business Source for the Performing Arts." Musical America is located on the Internet at http://www.musicalamerica.com/.

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