Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The Library Sale CD Trove IV

Reviewing my CD finds from half-price day at the Friends of the Multnomah County Library Annual Booksale.

Vivaldi: Gloria; Alessandro Scarlatti: Dixit dominus
English Concert & soloists
Trevor Pinnock, Conductor

With baroque choral music, even moreso than with baroque music in general, it's all about textures. It's just not a style that you go to for the melodies. Even the baroque choral greatest hits, the "Halleluah Chorus" and its little sibling "For Unto Us a Child is Given," are more about power and pattern than they are about a memorable tune. In live performance, baroque choral music can be an enveloping, sublime experience; after all, most of it was crafted to enhance religious worship. On recording, for better or worse, it is generally more used for pleasant background music than it is actively attended to.

This 1990 recording is by very big musical guns, and is for all intents and purposes flawless. It also has probably the #3 baroque choral hit, the first movement of the Vivaldi Gloria, as its first track. So, it's an easy winner and a steal for a buck fifty.

I've put some work into trying to distinguish between the Vivaldi and the A. Scarlatti, and I think it's fair to say that Scarlatti has a lighter touch. He seems to deploy his soloists in multiple short lines, as opposed to Vivaldi's extended vocal solos. I've noticed, too, that Vivaldi's music doesn't always blend flawlessly with the text (for vocal music dorks in the crowd -- Hi, Elizabeth! -- I'm thinking especially of the concluding statement of Gloria in Excelcius Deo in the first movement, which sounds kind of forced to me). So on balance, I'll say I prefer the Scarlatti. But really, unless you are deliberately looking for it, you're not even going to notice the transition.

Prognosis: Definite keeper.


Elizabeth said...

Hi, Michael! If you like the Vivaldi, the Bach Cantata Choir will be singing it on December 19th. I like Scarlatti but am not familiar with his vocal work, just some wicked hard piano sonatas. But you can't go wrong with Trevor Pinnock.

Kritkrat said...

It's no Beethoven Symphony No. 7 in A Major, but I guess I approve.

unwiseowl said...

Oh dear...
This blog looks far, far too interesting, Michael. I stumbled across your hashing adventures and followed the links, and am now trawling my way through the archives with much amusements

Michael5000 said...

@E.: Ooh, really? That will be a crowded day, but I'll try.

@Kadonk: Well, that's certainly true, but then how many pieces of music really ARE as -- HEY!! Look, everybody! Kadonkadonk's back in the house!!!

@unwiseowl: Oh, I KNOW!! It's WAY too interesting. I spend way, WAY too much of my time here. But welcome to the show!