“Magnificat & Concerti” = VIVALDI: Concerto for 2 Violins in g; Magnificat in g; BACH: Concerto for Harpsichord in d; Magnificat in D – Pierre Hantai, harpsichord/ Soloists/ La Capella Reial de Catalunya/ Le Concert des Nations/ Jordi Savall – Alia Vox SACD + DVD

“Magnificat & Concerti” = VIVALDI: Concerto for 2 Violins in g, RV 578; Magnificat in g, RV 610; BACH: Concerto for Harpsichord in d, BWV 1052; Magnificat in D, BWV 243 – Pierre Hantai, harpsichord/ Hanna Bayodi-Hirt, Johannette Zomer (sop.)/ Damien Guillon (countertenor)/ David Munderloh (tenor)/ Stephan MacLeod (bar.)/ La Capella Reial de Catalunya/ Le Concert des Nations/ Jordi Savall – Alia Vox multichannel SACD & DVD AVSA9909 (2 discs), 72:50 (SACD), 70:20 (DVD) [Distr. by Harmonia mundi] ***1/2:

It surprises me that I have not seen these works (with the exception of the Vivaldi Concerto, recorded in 2003) recorded by Savall before. Maybe he did and I can’t locate them, but they are not present in the current recorded catalog unless I have missed something. These readings came about as a result of the convocation of the Third Academy of Professional Training for Musical Research and Performance in Barcelona in June of 2013. It was recorded live just a few days afterward in the Chapelle Royale of Versailles, bringing together 20 young professional singers chosen by open audition.

The program opens with a previously recorded rendition of the Vivaldi Concerto, and is followed by the first version of his Magnificat, the most popular of his several, and composed around 1717-19. The Bach of the same name, was originally in E-flat, and was changed to D-major to facilitate the addition of trumpet parts, and jettisoned the Christmas hymns—he wrote the work for Christmas after assuming the position of  Thomaskantor in Leipzig in 1723. He also was aware of Vivaldi’s work, as he was in other all genres too. The piece is preceded by the D-minor harpsichord/ organ concerto, as famous as the choral work itself.

So it’s a win-win situation with this disc in terms of programming. The young singers are quite fine, and Savall leads a quality performance, though I am not sure it moves me as much as Shaw (Telarc) or Richter (Archiv) from years back. Nevertheless, there is really nothing to criticize and much to praise, and the sound is glorious, though lower-level than many other Alia Vox issues. The bonus is a DVD which gives us the entire concert with the exception of the Vivaldi Concerto. Please note that it is recorded in PAL format only (PCM 2.0), and will not play on the majority of DVD players in the USA—or Blu-ray, as I discovered—but should work on a computer. I piped mine with some frame staggering through a Chrome browser and Chromecast dongle. So a half-star deduction for this, as I don’t understand why they would not want all U.S. DVD players to readily access this. The SACD however, is just fine.

—Steven Ritter

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