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
Sound quality and program
notes are very fine indeed. Jump on
this one. A winner on all fronts.
see also review
by Robert Hugill