Lotti’s extraordinary fame as a composer of sacred music was established already in the 18th century. In 1770 the English musical scholar Charles Burney heard in the Venetian church of San Giovanni e Paolo a “mass set for four voices, accompanied only by the organ”.Since then Lotti was regarded as an excellent master of the a-cappella style, and representatives of various 19th-century movements for the improvement of sacred music celebrated him as “one of the greatest composers of sacred music of all times”, who, “starting out from the pure a-cappella style of the 16th century,” together with Fux and Caldara “had brought polyphonic music to a new climax at the musical centres of southern Europe, Vienna and Venice.” On the basis of this reputation some of Lotti’s works in the traditional stile antico gained considerable attention, whereas his large-scale masses, mass movements and psalm settings in stile concertato attracted the interest of musicians and music historians only recently.
The surviving sources do not reveal whether during his stay in the Saxon capital Lotti composed anything specifically for the Dresden Hofkirche. When, led by Lotti, in the autumn of 1717 the opera ensemble engaged by the Saxon electoral prince arrived at Dresden, the singers primarily were responsible for the opera performances but on other special occasions […] also sang in the catholic court service. [A]mong the musical manuscripts formerly belonging to the Dresden Hofkirche there are four vesper psalms transmitted in score written by an unknown Italian copyist, which may be connected with Lotti’s stay in the Saxon capital. Among them is the Dixit Dominus presented here[…]. It appears, however, that large-scale settings of this psalm with a performance time of at least thirty minutes in the early 18th century were fairly popular in Italy, for example Handel’s famous composition basically following the same type that was written in Rome in 1707. It is also possible that originally Lotti’s Dixit Dominus, together with the other three psalm settings transmitted in Dresden, was intended for a performance at Prague, which Lotti visited repeatedly during his two years as court kapellmeister at Dresden. Thus this edition not only presents a composition that it would be highly rewarding to perform; at the same time it may give valuable impulses towards further research in a field long neglected by musicologists.
(Gerhard Poppe, translation by Stephanie Wollny)