Italian Baroque Magnificats
During the baroque period, settings of the Magnificat became increasingly 'fragmented', the text being sub-divided to yield separate numbers for either choir or soloists; the present recording exemplifies the process per se, but not in chronological order. All four composers were Italian and born within the space of 30 years, but the eldest of them, Caldara, divided it into four sections, whilst Albinoni, one year younger, made no clear sub-division (there are three sections, the second from ''Deposuit potentes'', the third from ''Gloria Patri'', but they are performed segue); Sammartini, the youngest, made five numbers of it but Vivaldi, 21 years his junior, divided RV610 into nine parts, and in reworking it (RV611) added two more, probably for the benefit of the young ladies of the Pieta, but was alone in leaving the ''Gloria Patri'' intact. No one sub-division is common to the works of all four composers. Caldara calls for the most sumptuous orchestral force, Albinoni the leanest—two violin lines and unfigured continuo bass. Variety is not lacking.
The Vivaldi, of which both of the above versions are already available on CD, is familiar, but the other three (all experienced in writing for the voice, despite adequate testimony to the fact on disc) break new recorded ground and are of sufficient quality—especially the Sammartini—to make their appearance welcome, and suffice it to say that Bach thought highly enough of the Caldara to adapt it. The performances are well above average and would have been shown to even better advantage by a more sharply defined recording, one that did not lose so many word-endings—not a matter of the acoustic, which is spacious but not cavernous; the soloists do not receive 'showcase' placing, and though this is 'realistic' it often emphasizes their lack of crispness of diction. Whilst one might add 'could have been better' there is more than enough virtue and enterprise in this recording to justify putting out the welcome mat.'