The small British chorus called the Sixteen and director Harry Christophers have delivered consistently popular recordings of Renaissance and Baroque music, maintaining very high standards of performance. Here they couple two of the most popular Baroque works of all, Vivaldi's Gloria in D major, RV 589, and Bach's Magnificat in D major, BWV 243, and the results are handsome indeed. The tenor of the performances flows from the conceptions of each work that Christophers expresses in one of the little personal essays that appears at the beginning of each booklet in this series: Vivaldi, he said, is "effective," and even operates in places here "at his simplest," while Bach is "complex." Some would use other words first, for each composer -- daring or kinetic for Vivaldi, devotional or a dozen other words for Bach. There are recordings that give Vivaldi in general and the Gloria in particular more of an edge; there are recordings of Bach that seem warmer, or more rooted in the sacred texts. But here, as usual, Christophers, the Sixteen, and the Symphony of Harmony & Invention Baroque orchestra play it straight up the middle and create accessible, appealing recordings using historical instruments. The Magnificat is really superior in the choral sections, with superb articulation of Bach's difficult interlocking runs of sixteenth notes; the building energy of the final three choruses is marvelously rendered, and the opening "Magnificat" is expansive and rich. The Vivaldi is sunny rather than triumphal, with the choir a bit reined in and rounded in tone in the famous opening "Gloria," but all the solos are top-notch, with the "Laudamus te" soprano duet of Lynda Russell and Gillian Fisher an especially lilting standout. The listener has many choices when it comes to recordings of these works, but it's hard to imagine these, the Bach especially, being substantially outdone.
James Manheim, All Music Guide
Composer: Antonio Vivaldi, Johann Sebastian Bach
Conductor: Harry Christophers
Orchestra/Ensemble: The Sixteen, The Symphony of Harmony and Invention
Performer: Gillian Fisher, Ian Partridge, Lynda Russell, Michael George
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