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Antonio VIVALDI (1678-1741)
Gloria in D, RV589 (1715) [28.33] (1)
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Magnificat in D, BWV243 (1723) [26.45] (2); Jesus bleibet meine Freunde (Cantata 147) [3.28] (3); Zion hört die Wächter singen (Cantata 140) [4.43] (4); Schafe können sicher weiden (Cantata 2008) [4.18] (5)
Gottfried Heinrich STÖLZEL(1690-1749), arr. Trevor Connah
Bist du bei mir [2.50] (6)
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750), arr. Charles Gounod
Ave Maria [3.13] (7)
Barbara Hendricks (soprano) (1, 2, 5); Ann Murray (mezzo) (1, 2); Jean Rigby (mezzo) (2); Janet Baker (mezzo) (6, 7); Uwe Heillmann (tenor) (2); Jorma Hynninen (bass) (2); Academy Chorus of St. Martin-in-the-Fields (1, 2); Choir of King’s College, Cambridge (3); South German Madrigal Choir (4); Academy of St. Martin-in-the-Fields (1, 2, 3, 6); Consortium Musicum (4); Carl Philipp Emmanuel Bach Chamber Orchestra Berlin (5); Sir Philip Ledger (organ) (7); Neville Marriner (conductor) (1, 2, 6); Sir David Willcocks (conductor) (3); Wolfgang Gonnenwein (conductor) (4); Peter Schreier (conductor) (5)
rec. 1991
CLASSICS FOR PLEASURE 2282842 [74.35]

 

Experience Classicsonline


This recording of Vivaldi’s Gloria and Bach’s Magnificat has a profoundly comfortable - and comforting - feeling. Recorded in 1991, Neville Marriner directs his impeccable chamber forces in a performance which gives the occasional nod to period performance without doing anything to frighten the horses. The disc belongs to the long tradition established by such groups as the Academy of Ancient Music and the English Chamber Orchestra, of playing baroque music with relatively small groups of players; thus eschewing massively inflated baroque performance, but never quite giving fully-fledged period performance. Phrasing and articulation are admirable, clean and neat, but would not be out of place in Mozart or Haydn.

In fact these performances stand at two removes from what we might postulate Vivaldi or Bach actually heard. Standing aside from period performance practice issues, neither composer wrote for the forces assembled on this disc. Vivaldi’s Gloria was written for the all-female ensemble at the Pieta, with choir in four parts all sung by women. This was achieved because some of the women in the choir sang tenor or bass. Andrew Parrott has gone part of the way in this repertoire by recording the Gloria with an all-female ensemble, but with tenor and bass parts sung an octave higher. More recently the Schola Pietatis Antonio Vivaldi, conductor Richard Vendome, have received praise performing Vivaldi’s works for the Pieta with an all-female ensemble that incorporates women tenors and basses. I have heard them in concert and can testify to the remarkable success of the enterprise and the notable difference in sound an all-female choir makes.

With Bach the issue is not so much with who performed it, but rather how many performers were there? Though scholars still argue over the matter, it is becoming increasingly clear that Bach’s performances of many of his works would have adhered to the Lutheran tradition of using just one or two voices per part, with the soloists singing the choral parts. This makes a lot of sense of the Magnificat, where there are five soloists each of whom is allotted just one aria.

So, if you are looking for up to date period performance then stop reading here. You will need to look elsewhere. I’d suggest Paul McCreesh’s performance of the Bach Magnificat on Archiv, which sticks pretty close to the composer’s original voicing. Regarding Vivaldi’s Magnificat there are numerous recordings, but I would look at Rinaldo Alessandrini’s on Naïve.

What we must do now is decide whether this recording works on its own terms. And the answer is a resounding yes. Marriner has assembled a fine, balanced cast, all of whom sing admirably with that mix of lightness combined with classical tradition which he brings to the performance. This whole recording is of a piece, and that is what makes it such a delight and such a comfort.

Barbara Hendricks and Ann Murray are the admirably paired soloists in Vivaldi’s Gloria; both bring beauty of line and a feeling of élan. Hendricks and Murray recur in Bach’s Magnificat along with Jean Rigby, Uwe Heillman and Jorma Hynninen. Here we have one, slight, curiosity. In the Magnificat Murray sings the second soprano part, rather than the alto part which is allotted to Jean Rigby. Still, all three sing with the same fine feeling for Bach’s line. Heillman sounds a little stressed at times in the upper voice, but I have no real complaints about him or Hynninen.

The chorus, the Academy Chorus of St. Martin-in-the-Fields acquits itself admirably. They bring a good sense of line, clear textures and balance sound to both pieces; only occasionally does the odd stodgy moment creep in.

The Academy of St. Martin-in-the-Fields play clearly and warmly, contributing some good solo moments. All is presided over benignly by Neville Marriner. His speeds are on the steady side, which has the advantage of giving his performers leeway in the passagework. But the performance always sounds light and fluent, never heavy; this is one of its great advantages.

As filler we are given three well known movements from Bach cantatas culled from a variety of recordings both distant and recent. This result is a charming survey of Bach performance styles. The final two fillers both feature solo items from Janet Baker. The first is her performance of an arrangement of an aria once attributed to Bach, followed by the inimitable Bach/Gounod Ave Maria.

This is not a recording which aims to emulate period practice; instead it takes Bach and Vivaldi on its own terms. But it does so stylishly, with clarity and great warmth. 

Robert Hugill 


 


 




 


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