JS Bach; Vivaldi

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2.0 out of 5 star rating 2.0

COMPOSERS: JS Bach; Vivaldi
LABELS: Telarc
ALBUM TITLE: JS Bach; Vivaldi
WORKS: Magnificat, BWV243
PERFORMER: Tamara Matthews (soprano), Deanne Meek (mezzo-soprano), Mary Phillips (alto), Don Frazure (tenor), Stephen Powell (baritone); Boston Baroque/Martin Pearlman
CATALOGUE NO: CD-80651
You have to feel sorry for Vivaldi’s Gloria when it’s followed by the Bach Magnificat. The neat D major segue tends to leave RV589 buried by the all-embracing richness of Bach’s polyphony, the invention of his scoring and the sheer sophistication of his exuberance. Perhaps BWV243 encourages musicians to dig deeper into themselves for Pearlman’s isn’t the first coupling to deliver a game of two halves. Previous recordings such as Harry Christophers and The Sixteen, or Richard Hickox and Collegium 90 prove similarly re-energised after a brush with JSB.

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Pearlman’s Vivaldi however scores several own goals. His rhythms are thrusting enough but they don’t always dance (the siciliano lilt of the ‘Domine Deus’ particularly earthbound), and the soloists are inclined to labour a point (the ‘Domine Deus, Agnus Dei’ milked to the point of lugubriousness). Andrew Parrott’s all-female version and Alessandrini’s invigorating text-led approach yield contrasting views, and when it comes to the Bach, Pearlman is entering a particularly strong field. His instincts are dramatic, the opening chorus suitably celebratory if a touch didactic, and the ‘Omnes generationes’ exudes such vigour it almost sounds like an angry turba chorus from one of the Passions. On balance the male soloists fare best – the ‘Deposuit potentes’ notably virile – but despite some thrilling moments the overall effect is lacking in light and shade. The exhilaration of Gardiner, the neat tailoring of Suzuki and the insightfulness of Herreweghe all have more to offer. And with less uncomfortably ‘upfront’ recorded sound too. Paul Riley