Reviewed by John Irvine
This is the third release in a new series of recordings from the wonderful King's Consort, one of Britain's finest "Period-Music" groups, volumes one and two were reviewed in issues 29 (October 1995) and 35 (October 1996) respectively. While Vivaldi is listed in a number of music dictionaries as the man who wrote the same concerto 400 times, this new series should go some way to enabling us to re-evaluate Vivaldi as not just the man who got lucky with a good tune in the Four Seasons, but as a serious, indeed major, composer of sacred choral music. This is recognisably the same Vivaldi as you might expect from the composer of the Four Seasons, and while there is obvious homage paid to J S Bach, the great and undisputed master of baroque choral music, Vivaldi has a few tricks of his own up his sleeve and the result is something very much his own and perhaps rather underrated by 20th centuary ears. This is first-rate baroque choral music, very much in keeping with the standards of musical excellence and the tastes and fashions of the period, sumptuous in texture, diverse in mood, colour and shade. Until the late 1960s the only setting of Dixit Dominus by Vivaldi known to exist was the one for double choir recorded on volume one of this series (Hyperion 66769). A second version for five part choir, soloists and orchestra was unexpectedly found in Prague which was as large in scale. Like many other composers of his day, Vivaldi was not above praising the work of other composers by, er, pinching the occasional tune. Three of the 11 movements of Dixit Dominus show examples of this, with improvements upon the originals it must be said. The work is a dazzling barn stormer doing full justice to the stirring words of Psalm 109. Vivaldi composed several versions of Beatus Vir; it is the better-known and musically stronger version that is recorded here. The collection is rounded off by a selection of shorter pieces including the outstanding Domine Ad Adjuvandum, a brief but memorable three-movement work. As always, the performances by the King's Consort are sufficient to justify the financial outlay in acquiring this disc, and they certainly make this collection a joy to listen to and far more interesting than to mere collectors or completists; this is a disc that will be enjoyed by all those who have a soft spot for baroque music. Highly recommended.
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