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Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Magnificat in D BWV 243 (1723) [25:04]
Antonio VIVALDI (1678-1741)
Gloria in D RV 589 (1715) [30:15]
Barbara Hendricks (soprano)
Ann Murray (mezzo)
Jean Rigby (contralto)
Uwe Heilmann (tenor)
Jorma Hynninen (bass)
Academy and Choir of St Martin-in-the-Fields/Neville Marriner
rec. No.1 Studio, Abbey Road, London, October 1990 
EMI CLASSICS 2081252 [55:19]


Experience Classicsonline

This good coupling is now getting on for twenty years of age. It’s engaging, enjoyable and what one should now call ‘middle of the road’; modern instruments employed with crispness and bite, rhythmically well sprung and accompanying the usual roster of heavyweight singers whose fruitier vibratos create the often encountered imbalance between vocalists and instrumentalists.

This will be more of a burden to some than to others. What’s true to say is that the Et in terra pax of Vivaldi’s Gloria is raptly sustained and that the Laudamus te is imbued with the Old School, rather sinewy vibratos that make the disparities noted above so evident. Celia Nicklin’s oboe shines in the Gratias agimus and the chorus, so well trained by their chorus master Laszlo Heltay, displays their accustomed warmth yet incisive buoyancy – and good blend. Nice orchestral string separation, as well, as one might expect from Marriner given that he was such a good fiddle player in his youth. There is special strength and gravity in Qui tollis which is, if anything, where the choral singing is at its zenith. Clearly this is a very over-competitive field but Marriner and the Academy always cultivated the important knack of wedding finesse to vitality, as this recording amply shows.

There are comparable qualities and virtues to be heard in the Bach Magnificat. Once again individual and collective instrumental excellences abound – such as the oboe d’amore in Quia respexit for instance. There’s an apposite gravity in Et misericordia which is duly enforced by the strings’ great warmth and solidity of tone.

Given the establishment of the impressive instrumental platform much will depend on what one makes of the individual singers. Perhaps the litmus test is whether you blanch at the forceful vibratos of Barbara Hendricks and Ann Murray in the Laudamus te. It happens to be the case that the vocal cast conform in almost all matters of vibrato usage so at least in that respect they make for a hermetically sealed unit. But try that movement from the Vivaldi if you can, if you’re curious about acquiring this set - which comes as per the style of this series, without texts.

Jonathan Woolf 

see also Review by Gwyn Parry-Jones


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