Vivaldi: Sacred choral music

COMPOSERS: Vivaldi
LABELS: Philips
WORKS: Sacred choral music
PERFORMER: Margaret Marshall, Felicity Lott, Linda Finnie, Ann Murray, Birgit Finnilä, Anne Collins, Sally Burgess, Elly Ameling, Ingeborg Springer, Julia Hamari, Annelies Burmeister, Jochen Kowalski, Nico van der Meel, Anthony Rolfe Johnson, Robert Holl, Thomas Tho
CATALOGUE NO: 462 234-2 ADD/DDD Reissue (1974-90)
During the Seventies and Eighties, Vittorio Negri made an extensive recorded survey of Vivaldi’s sacred vocal music. This is now collected in a single release of 10 CDs which reflect the strikingly wide expressive vocabulary of which this composer was capable. Vivaldi had the duties of choirmaster and church composer thrust upon him rather unexpectedly. His responsibilities initially had been those of instrumental composer and teacher at the Venetian orphanage for girls, the Ospedale della Pietà. But standing in for an absentee ‘Maestro di coro’ between 1713 and 1719 gave Vivaldi an undreamed of opportunity to provide sacred vocal pieces for his musically talented pupils.

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Though Negri’s performances are all on modern instruments rather than period ones, the results are, by-and-large, convincing – at least on their own terms – and very well executed. The John Alldis Choir deserves high praise for its lively responses to the music and for its usually impeccable ensemble. Likewise, the English Chamber Orchestra, which carries the greatest burden of instrumental responsibility, is never less than adequate and often much more than that. Among the soloists, sopranos Elly Ameling, Felicity Lott and Margaret Marshall are a constant delight – Marshall’s Laudate pueri (RV 601), is brilliant in execution. Some others are variable in the degree of stylistic conviction which they bring to the music; but contralto Birgit Finnilä, in the title role of Vivaldi’s only surviving oratorio, Juditha triumphans, is splendid. Hers is certainly one of the most powerful and touching interpretations of the character on disc. The supporting cast is strong, and there is a wealth of fine obbligato contributions from the Berlin Chamber Orchestra to complement Vivaldiwonderfully varied tonal palette. Readers may also wish to know if the famous Gloria in D (RV 589) comes off well. It does, setting the seal, so to speak, on a richly rewarding reissue. Full texts are provided, but only in Latin.