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26 of 27 people found the following review helpful
on October 23, 2005
This is the difinitive recording of Vivaldi's Gloria and Bach's Magnificat on modern instruments. Not but 50 years ago (when period performances were nearly non-existent) choirs like the Roger Wagner Chorale were butchering these works. Robert Shaw comes along and performs Handel's Messiah like nobody's ever heard, with lively tempos and light articulation; finally scholarship and performance practice catch up to what we have today.

The Works: On this disk are two very different works. The Vivaldi is evocative of the Italian singing tradition. Flowing melodies and voice writing, both with conjunct motion, simple harmonies over the typical Baroque perpetual motion. The Bach, on the other hand, is from the later German school. Vocal and instrumental parts are extremely virtuosic, and the separate movements use more variety in orchestration and texture.

The Performers: While using modern transverse flutes, winds, piccolo trumpets, and strings, the sound has a modern fullness (Shaw still pares down the Atlanta Symphony), but it is taut with proper Baroque articulation. The organ and bass continuo are very good at what they do. The ensemble comes across crisp and clear. The soloists are dynamite; they have read up on their vocal performance practices (without going overboard) and perform with style and intelligence. The Atlanta Chamber Chorus is also very fine, however it seems, in relation to everyone else, they are singing in a bathroom; still well performed.

The Performance: The tempos are moderate considering recent scholarship, but this is still the "mainstream" recording of these miniature masterpieces. Robert Shaw knows the works, knows the style, and know how to get the proper sounds and balances from his ensembles. I suggest owning both a modern and period performance of these works if you really like them, since both are vastly different. For a modern performance, this is the difinitive. For a period performance try the Hogwood or the more revolutionary Rinaldo Alessandrini version on Opus III.
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24 of 26 people found the following review helpful
on June 16, 2000
This is a very good CD, but not completely flawless. One of the horns is slightly flat in the last number of the Gloria, and the orchestral sound lacks a little fullness that a better recording might have.
Although both sopranos have beautiful voices and excellent control, Upshaw occasionally seems more interested in adding ornamentation than in conveying the words and feeling of these great works; and Jensen seems to struggle for breath a couple of times.
In addition, the Magnificat so outshines the Gloria in depth, complexity, and passion, that it seems somewhat strange to combine the two works. Not that the Gloria isn't beautiful and uplifting, but Bach's compositional genius leaves one breathless by comparison.
The vocal interpretation is generally very good and moving, but true to Baroque style. The duets are especially superb, with the rising and falling dynamics between the parts beautifully apparent but not overbearing. Gordon (Tenor) is fabulous, maintaining brilliant tone and technical control over a broad range of pitch and passage types. Simpson (Mezzo/Alto) is absolutely stunning, combining tremendous passion with flawless technique; I doubt even the great Cecilia Bartoli could perform these solos better.
Shaw was at his best as a conductor of classic religious works in these recordings. I'm not sure how much of the coordination of the various instruments and singers was Shaw's doing and how much was the studio's, but even the difficult phrases are beautifully combined throughout both works.
I'd prefer a little less vocal staccato -- perhaps less 'h' in the attack -- in the individual notes of long runs. I don't know if this was Shaw's preference or the singers', since it's not blatant in Simpson's and Stone's singing (it is very obvious in the choruses), but this doesn't really detract from the two works; in fact, it makes the choruses sound very polished.
In all, a very good CD and well worth buying; I'll look around for better recordings of the Magnificat, though.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Shaw has taken "Gloria" and breathed new life into it. THe tempos are brisk, giving the performance energy. There is a sparkle to the Atlanta SO sound, and the choir is bold and crisp! If you are looking to enter the world of the Baroque choral masterpieces, this is a fabulous place to start.
Thank you Shaw/ASO!!
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on December 19, 1999
For anyone not familiar with Vivaldi's works other than his Four Seasons, this disc is a great way to introduce yourself to his work. The choral sound that Shaw encourages is always warm yet includes perfectly understandable diction. The delightful and perpetually driving rhythms in the piece are always clear. For many listeners and performers, the Et in Terra Pax (second movement) is the particular masterpiece of the work. With its longing suspensions and resolutions, it will move even the most tame of hearts. This is a must buy.
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27 of 39 people found the following review helpful
on May 7, 2002
As much as I love the work of Robert Shaw, I must confess, this recording remains something of a mystery to me. Shaw can squeaze blood from a turnip when it comes to making beautiful music with a choir. But, the use of modern instruments on this recording of two baroque masterpieces seems to dampen their impact. The percolating octaves from Vivaldi's Gloria in excelsis scream PERIOD but the modern strings gently glide over what should sound like pure jubilation. The battle between beauty and period authenticity on this recording is a decisive victory to Shaw. Vivaldi's Et in terra pax is so languid and lugubrious that you will be reminded of Poulenc. The slow tempos do, however, give Shaw's chorus the chance to shine magnificently. Bach's Gloria Patri has probably never sounded so lush. During Esurientes implevit bonis from the Magnificat, Marietta Simpson will knock your socks off with her stunning voice. The incongruity of this recording is the only reason I cannot give it five stars. When all is said and done, I really do prefer the mannerisms of period instruments. So, if you are an admirer of sheer choral beauty, this disc will not disappoint. However, it is a poor representative of what these two magnificent pieces should really feel like.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on May 30, 2014
I railed against too large choirs and orchestras on another recording of the Gloria and it was really too heavy. This is superb, well balanced. An excellent recording. A tribute to Robert Shaw's talent. Very good.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on May 5, 2015
For those who know The Magnificat, this one is taken at a Bach pace with expected counterpoints, and rarely rushed. The Vivaldi, a piece I did not know, was an ear-opener, and merits multiple listenings.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on April 30, 2012
This is my favorite version of the Gloria. Not so sure about the Magnificat - I listen to that far less often than I do to the GLoria, which I return to again and again. I play it while I exercise - nothing like some uplifting music while I'm swinging a few weights around! It never fails to uplift me, with a driving tempo, beautiful diction and inspiring music. I sang in a choir which performed this, so listening to the CD was excellent to help learn the music. Our choir director recommended this version, and I am frequently grateful to him for so doing. OK, so it's modern instruments (I gather), well I like it. A lot. I've heard other versions, and prefer this one to all of them.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on December 21, 2014
Accurate rendition, energetically preformed, well recorded.
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on March 1, 2014
I like this recording's pace and blend of voices. However it lacks the crisp, energetic tone in the Vivaldi Gloria that I was seeking.
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