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Antonio VIVALDI (1678-1741)
Sacred Choral Music - Volume One

Dixit Dominus RV 595 [22:08]
Nulla in mundo pax sincera RV 630 [14:00]
Jubilate, o amoeni chori RV 639-Gloria RV 588 [32:09]
Jane Archibald, soprano
Michele de Boer, soprano
Anita Kraus, mezzo
Nils Brown, tenor
Peter Mahon, counter-tenor
Giles Tomkins, bass
Aradia Ensemble and Chorus/Kevin Mallon
Rec. Grace Church on the Hill, Toronto, Canada, 15-20 September 2003. DDD
NAXOS 8.557445 [68:18]
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Naxos, in their ever-continuing quest to give us the entire classical repertoire at an affordable price, have begun yet another series of recordings that is certain to bear great riches if this introductory outing is any indication. In a most consistently outstanding recital of Antonio Vivaldi’s sacred vocal works, Kevin Mallon and his Aradia Ensemble prove themselves to be on a par with any of the fine baroque orchestras and choirs active today. Add to the complement a fine roster of soloists and you have a package that is close to irresistible.

Vivaldi, known to Venetians as "the red priest" for the combination of his first calling and his red hair, spent a goodly portion of his career as master of the music for the Ospedale della Pieta, an institution for orphaned and illegitimate girls. Apparently the lack of social good fortune did not hamper the abundance of musical gifts present in the place. In addition to his voluminous output of concertos and chamber music, he was also quite prolific in his writing for the church. If this disc is a harbinger of things to come, I will be anxiously awaiting each new issue in this series.

Opening with the Vesper psalm Dixit Dominus, we get treated to a choral ensemble of exquisite refinement and an orchestra of delightful aplomb. Jane Archibald and Michele de Boer are a divine pair of sirens in their strikingly well blended and beautiful duet singing. Maestro Mallon is the apex of taste and style in this well paced performance. He is to be particularly commended for the ultra-elegant singing of his choir, and for the careful attention to enunciation. Each word is clearly audible and understandable, even to the untrained ear.

Ms. Archibald returns to deliver the gorgeous motet Nulla in mundo pax sincera, delightful in its captivating compound meter. This is singing of the first order, devoid of the "earlier than thou" trappings of many baroque specialists, and completely convincing in its sincerity, clarity and intonation. To say more would endanger my credibility given that I would want nothing more than to gush on about the ravishing beauty of this singing.

The concluding work, the lesser known of the two extant settings of the Gloria, is another winner for its pacing and vocal and instrumental refinement. The work opens with an interpolated motet, lovely as a piece of music, but a bit of a let-down in performance. Alas, mezzo-soprano Anita Krause, whose rich voice is a pleasurable enough listen, over-blows her coloratura passages, approaching them too heavily and without a solid core to the pitch. They start to sound like the starter mechanism of an old car on a cold day. To her credit, however, in the more liquid and lyrical longer-noted passages, she sings with serenity and color that is quite lovely.

Sound quality and program notes are very fine indeed. Jump on this one. A winner on all fronts.

Kevin Sutton

see also review by Robert Hugill

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