Bach Magnificat in E flat major, BWV243a*.

Vivaldi Gloria in D major, RV589**.

Judith Nelson, Emma Kirkby (sops); Carolyn Watkinson (contr); Paul Elliott (ten); David Thomas (bass); Christ Church Cathedral Choir, Oxford; Academy of Ancient Music / Simon Preston.

L'Oiseau- Lyre Florilegium 411 678-20H. Item marked * from DSL0572 (1/80), **DSL0554 (1/79).

Denis Arnold enjoyed this performance of Vivaldi's most popular choral work, the Gloria in D major, when he reviewed it in 1979. So do I! There is a freshness of approach and a lightness of sound and texture which serve the music extremely well. Simon Preston achieved great things with the Christ Church choir, and this is apparent in each choral section of the Gloria. It is the boys' voices which, however, make the greatest appeal to my ears since I find that on occasion the powerful countertenor line is over zealous – the "Domine Fili unigenite" chorus sounds too 'Oxbridge' for words! Still, that's a very small price to pay for a lissome performance such as this and a strong team of soloists with an impressive line-up of instrumentalists – the Judith Nelson and Clare Shanks (oboe) partnership is notably successful in the "Domine Deus" solo – all make for a sensitive and musicianly account. The recorded sound was always good but the CD transfer certainly has the edge over the LP.

Bach's earlier version of the Magnificat, BWV243a receives a vigorous performance, with tine contributions from Emma Kirkby, Judith Nelson and Carolyn Watkinson. His better known and later D major version (BWV243) is, of course, more brilliant in colour, but the gentle colour-wash of his original, together with the four choral interpolations with their specific Christmas-season reference provide the listener with an intimately radiant picture. The performance is not without its weak moments but, in spite of them, the overall result is satisfying. However, I'm mystified by the full-page engraving of Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach in the booklet? We know that he greatly admired his father's setting of the canticle but....

Nicholas Anderson

 

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