Antonio VIVALDI (1678-1741)
Kyrie, RV 587 [9.28]
Gloria in D Major, RV 589 [26.40]
Credo, RV 591 [8.59]
Magnificat RV 610 [13.41]
Kaia Urb (soprano); Vilve Hepner (soprano); Anna Zander (alto); Mati Turi (tenor)
Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir
Tallinn Chamber Orchestra/Tonu Kaljuste
rec. Tallinn Methodist Church, 14-18 October 2002
CARUS CLASSICS 83.325 [58.56]

Beloved of choral societies everywhere, Vivaldi’s Gloria is so famous that simply performing it or recording it can be something of a stunt. This disc breathes new life into the work without making a song and dance about it. Originally issued in 2003, it has been reissued on Carus Classics celebrating the label’s 40th anniversary.
Tonu Kaljuste is the founder of the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir. He and the performers place the music in context by surrounding the Gloria with Kyrie, Credo and Magnificat settings also by Vivaldi. The music-making goes to show that he was certainly not a one-hit wonder. It also makes you wonder why choirs ignore all this other music.
The Kyrie opens with a long expressive orchestral introduction. The choir adds Vivaldi’s richly subtle and chromatic vocal lines. Though the first Kyrie is technically for two choirs, Vivaldi very much explores varied groupings. The surprisingly lively Christe was written for four female soloists, but here is nicely sung by all the choir’s sopranos and altos. The two choirs join for the rather mobile concluding fugue.
From the opening note and the brisk speed adopted it is clear that in the Gloria Kaljuste will be taking no prisoners. The strings respond with clean, inspiring playing. The impetus and bounce of the vocal lines draw you in. The Tallinn Chamber Orchestra is a modern instrument group but there is nothing lush or romantic about this.
A quietly intense Et in terra pax is followed by a soprano duet sung by the nicely balanced pairing of Kaia Urb and Vilve Hepner. These are clean vibrant voices with neat passagework and a lovely bounce to the line. Again the performance infectiously draws you in.
In the solo soprano number, Domine Deus, the graceful and shapely solo line is finely matched with some lovely oboe playing. The whole movement is well judged and has a dancing lilt.
By contrast, Domine fili unigenite is all rhythm and crisp articulation from choir and orchestra; not overdone, it is wonderfully vivid. Domine Deus Agnus Dei sees soloist Anna Zander displaying a mellow mezzo-soprano voice with a thoughtful feeling for the music’s line.
Zander is back for Qui Sedes, the slight edge to her timbre adding vibrancy to the shapely vocal part. There’s a good perky accompaniment from the strings. Finally the fugue, with its weighty subject and dancing counter-subject, brings the work to a close.
This account of the Gloria has all the strengths of clarity and vividness. It is thoughtful when it needs to be and always involving and infectious. The soloists are not grand, well known names but they articulate Vivaldi’s music in just the right way. Their shapely approach blends adroitly with that of the choir.
The Credo is entirely different. Despite the length of the text, it is divided into just four movements with the words chanted by the four-part choir. There are no soloists. The opening and closing movements share musical material and the speeds are brisk. The voices and strings articulate clearly and the results are rather exciting. The middle two movements are slower, ensuring that the crucial texts Et Incarnatus est and Crucifixus make maximum impact.
The final Magnificat uses mainly choir (in four-parts) but with a soprano duet and roles for alto and tenor. A massive opening statement is followed by a lively Et exultavit with a soprano solo followed by and one for the alto. The booklet does not specify which of the two soprano soloists gets which solo. Tenor soloist Mati Turi makes only one brief appearance, but impresses through his neatly turned passagework. The movements are all quite short, with Vivaldi ensuring that the chorus are presented with maximum variety. The Magnificat would be one of the centre-pieces of choral vespers, a service popularly used for music and vocal display at the period.
The penultimate movement includes some lovely bubbly writing for oboes and bassoons. These are heard in dialogue with the strings before lively transparent vocal lines are added on top. The work concludes with a lively fugue.
The CD comes with texts and English translations, plus a short article on Vivaldi’s music.
The disc would certainly be highly attractive for someone who does not want a period performance. As someone who normally prefers the historically informed approach, I found this disc refreshing and infectiously engaging. The choir and orchestra are technically on top form, but impress more by the way they draw you in. This is not a period style performance, but speeds are brisk and the results highly stylish. By including companion pieces from the Mass and the Vespers, Kaljuste and his forces give us a picture of Vivaldi’s sacred music and make us wonder why it isn’t heard more often.

Robert Hugill 

Not period style but speeds are brisk. Highly stylish and involving.

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