A sensible coupling of two celebratory liturgical works. Only the Bach was specifically composed for the Christmas season as far as we know. Vivaldi’s Gloria is his most popular vocal/choral composition today, and was only premiered in the 20th century in 1930 after being found in a large collection of his vocal works had been uncovered. It’s popularity today might be due to the opening section having the strong rhythmic feeling of some of the Vivaldi’s violin concertos. The Gloria was written for female voices only, suggesting that it was intended for performance at the Pieta orphanage for girls in Venice.
Bach created his Magnificat for Christmas of 1723, with a large orchestra and five instead of four-part chorus, all designed to upgrade the celebratory nature of the piece. Four Christmas hymns were inserted into the original score, but Bach later reworked the piece, removing them and lowering the pitch by half a step to make it more comfortable for some of the instruments. The absence of the Christmas hymns made the Magnificat – with its shorter length than the typical mass – suitable for other occasions throughout the year. The Latin texts of both works are in the booklet. The three vocal soloists in the Gloria and the five in the Magnificat are all first rate, and the period instrument orchestra imparts a great clarity to the ensemble’s accompaniment. This is aided by the very natural 5.0-channel surround sound recording which Telarc made in a hall in Worcester, Massachusetts.
– John Sunier