> Antonio Vivaldi - Stephen Cleobury [GH]: Classical Reviews- March 2002 MusicWeb(UK)






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Antonio VIVALDI (1678-1741)
Gloria In D Major RV589
Dixit Dominus In D Major RV 594;
Magnificat In G Minor RV 610
Sarah Fox and Deborah Norman (sopranos), Michael Chance (counter-tenor); James Gilchrist (tenor); Jonathan Lemalu (bass)
Choir of King’s College Cambridge with The Academy of Ancient Music conducted by Stephen Cleobury
Recorded in the Chapel of King’s College Cambridge March/July 2001
EMI CLASSICS 5 57265 2 [68.15]


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It is the Gloria of course, which grabs the headlines on the front of the CD. It is Vivaldi’s best-known piece of church music. The Gloria falls into eleven sections of similarly short length with attractive and arresting ideas, which are easy to remember. The work as a whole is not at all difficult for any decent amateur choir. There are also solo sections like the ‘Domine Deus, Rex Coelestis’ and duets like the ‘Laudamus te’ sung here with sheer delight by the two named sopranos. The ‘Domine Deus filius patris’ features the wonderfully expressive Michael Chance. Most choral societies will have tackled the piece and collectors and general music lovers will want a version at home. So is this a good choice?

Well it all depends on whether you like boys on the top part or women or if you like original instruments as you have here. If you are not at all bothered then perhaps the excellent Naxos version performed by the Schola Cantorum of Oxford and the Northern Chamber Orchestra (8.550767) coupled with the wonderful ‘Beatus Vir’ is for you, after all why pay full price, unless of course this particular coupling appeals to you. The Naxos version follows the standard edition - the one made by Casella for Ricordi. Its good to know here that the version used is a more recent one by Paul Everett for O.U.P. It is worth noting that almost every movement has at least a few bars alteration from the Ricordi version.

The Magnificat (an early work from about 1715) is another multi-movement work, which should be better known. Of note is the way Vivaldi involves the orchestra in depicting the scattering of the proud. This is done with some frenzy. The opening chorus with its powerful chords is "highly charged and chromatic" to quote the booklet notes by Simon Heighes. This makes a dramatic contrast with the following operatic soprano solo ‘Et exultavit’. This movement is for three soloists including the fine voiced James Gilchrist but also has the choral interjections - appropriately for the word ‘omnes’.

Vivaldi’s ‘Dixit Dominus’ is the grandest of the settings on this CD and dates from the period 1720-30. It is a very fine work. Vivaldi gave up the priesthood, for whatever reason, to work at the ‘ospedale de la pieta’ a girl’s convent school for whom he wrote music, choral and instrumental. This work has real bass parts which not even Vivaldi’s versatile girls could have managed. The movement ‘Dominus ad dextris tuis’ is for tenor and bass. It is very imposingly sung by James Gilchrist and a fine bass new to me, Jonathan Lemalu. The work was written for the convent church of St. Lorenzo and is particularly ambitious. The Handelian opening, full of strong fanfare ideas played on trumpets, marks the piece off as being different. The homophonic chordal writing which succeeds it is powerful. The trumpets return with fanfares in no uncertain terms for the orchestral introduction to movement 7 ‘Judacabit in nationibus’ (He shall judge the heathen). Did Vivaldi really expect trumpet glissandi? The trumpets appear again for the Gloria.

In contrast the following aria ‘De Torrente in via bibiet’ (He shall drink of the brook in the way) flows with triplets in mouth-watering sequences. Sarah Fox here seems ideal deploying perfect control in the long phrases and sensitive to the ensemble in general. There is much in this work to captivate and interest. Its performance will never disappoint, and EMI have captured the difficult college acoustic without detriment to the music, but enabling you to sense the building; something which they did not so successfully achieve in recordings there twenty years ago.

Gary Higginson

 


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