WORKS: Laudate pueri, RV 602; Salve regina, RV 618; Ascende laeta; Gaude mater ecclesia
PERFORMER: Carolyn Sampson, Susan Gritton, Joanne Lunn (soprano), Joyce DiDonato (mezzo-soprano), Nathalie Stutzmann (contralto); The King’s Consort & Choir/Robert King
CATALOGUE NO: CDA 66839
As Robert King and Hyperion approach the end of this revelatory series (the tenth and final disc is due next year), quality of both music and performance shows no sign of flagging. Of five works, only the first, Laudate pueri, includes choir, singing a threefold refrain which creates a reassuring structural logic over a 20-minute span. Though male-voice countertenors, tenors and basses are inevitably weightier than Vivaldi’s girls at the Pietà orphanage (probably with tenors at pitch but ‘basses’ up an octave), the choral singing has an uplifting lightness and clarity. The solos are glorious, often quiet, understated, from two distinctive but matched voices, one of whom – Joanne Lunn – is a newcomer to the team. The concluding Gloria is unusual, with oboe in gentle, lyrical mood, ecstatic rather than exuberant. An alternative version with flute, a final stocking-filler, is fascinating to compare.
The other vocal newcomer is Joyce DiDonato, a full, dramatic voice – she has worked in contemporary American stage music – but with a thrilling command of boundingly fast figuration in the concerto-like Ascende laeta. Stutzmann sings a Salve regina setting with an exciting countertenorish edge. Recording perspective is admirably deep, though the stereo separation of divided strings, dramatic through headphones, is less striking in a room acoustic. Excellent. George Pratt