The American Bach Soloists are releasing a new album — “Handel: Laudate pueri Dominum” — featuring American coloratura soprano Mary Wilson, in a program of bravura works by George Frideric Handel.
The album features three challenging works for soprano and chamber ensemble that place extraordinary demands of virtuosity and expressiveness on soloist and orchestra alike. Written in 1707 when the composer was living in Italy, Laudate pueri Dominum is a startling example of Handel’s ability to absorb and make use of foreign traditions to fuel his unique vision and compositional voice.
The psalm setting is a veritable catalogue of Italian musical forms, all masterfully employed by Handel. The “Gloria” for coloratura voice, two violins, and basso continuo is also from Handel’s early period. Discovered in 2001, this exquisite liturgical work is at times expansive and elegant, but its vigorous sections for the soprano soloist are what often amaze listeners.
The composer’s thrilling virtuoso motet “Silete venti” (“Silence, ye winds”) comes from later in Handel’s career when he was living in London and writing operas for the lyric stage. Opening with what appears to be a typical French overture, the soprano makes her entrance in the work by bidding the winds — elemental and instrumental — to be silent so her Christian soul can peacefully enjoy its repose.
Last May, Wilson’s performances of Silete venti with the American Bach Soloists (including a concert at Davis Community Church) impressed audiences with the breathtaking ease and precision of her singing. Maestro Jeffrey Thomas was commended for programming the overlooked gem with an ideal interpreter like Wilson: “ ‘Silete venti’ is a wonderful work, and the fact that it is a misfit for modern-day concert programs makes its absence from the repertoire a shame. Thank goodness for ABS!” said a review in San Francisco Classical Voice.
“Handel: Laudate pueri Dominum” featuring Wilson is the latest recording to join ABS’ critically lauded discography of 19 titles, including a six-volume series of cantatas by J.S. Bach, full recordings of the St. Matthew Passion and Mass in B Minor, and recordings concentrating on the music of Corelli, Haydn, Beethoven and Schütz.
The album will be released nationally on Dec. 3 and is available for pre-sale on iTunes. It also will be on sale at the American Bach Soloists’ concert at the Mondavi Center on Dec. 15 (performing the Handel oratorio “Messiah”).