Also, Bach: Magnificat. Martin Pearlman, Boston Baroque. Telarc CD-80651.
The most striking thing one notices almost immediately about this Telarc release is the clean transparency of the vocals. Voices are notoriously hard to record, particularly massed voices in choral presentations, which often sound either too bright and forward or too recessed and dull. Here the voices don't approach either extreme. The choir seems perfectly natural and remarkably clear, one of the best recordings of its kind I've heard. If I have any reservation about the sonics, it's that the choir as pictured in the booklet insert is standing on an elevated stage some ten feet behind the orchestra, whereas in the recording the singers appear to occupy the same space as their accompaniment. In other words, the recording could have used a tad more depth.
Martin Pearlman's Boston Baroque ensemble, about two dozen or so strong, play on period instruments, but they never sound harsh or strident, and their tempos do not plunge headstrong into the realms of the frenetic. Like the chorus they attend, the instruments sound perfectly realistic, and the players perform both works on the disc with grace and decorum.
Although the interpretations are not entirely what we think of in terms of period readings, they retain an energy and vigor that one often associates with such performance practices, Vivaldi's Gloria, especially, moving forward with a delicate gusto.
For the disc's companion piece, Pearlman chooses to play Bach's revised Magnificat in D-major rather than the earlier one in E-flat. Many other period conductors prefer the original as somehow being more authentic, but it was Bach himself who revised the piece about ten years after its première, supposedly in order to remove some Christmas hymns that tended to limit its value year round and to lower the key to make it more comfortable for several of the instruments. In any case, it, too, comes off as well as any Magnificat I've heard, thanks to the refined liveliness of the performers. An excellent issue.
About the Author
Understand, I'm just an everyday guy reacting to something I love. And I've been doing it for a very long time, my appreciation for classical music starting with the musical excerpts on The Big John and Sparkie radio show in the early Fifties and the purchase of my first recording, The 101 Strings Play the Classics, around 1956. In the late Sixties I began teaching high school English and Film Studies as well as becoming interested in hi-fi, my audio ambitions graduating me from a pair of AR-3 speakers to the Fulton J's recommended by The Stereophile's J. Gordon Holt. In the early Seventies, I began writing for a number of audio magazines, including Audio Excellence, Audio Forum, The Boston Audio Society Speaker, The American Record Guide, and from 1976 until 2008, The $ensible Sound, for which I served as Classical Music Editor.
Today, I'm retired from teaching and use a pair of bi-amped VMPS RM40s loudspeakers for my listening. In addition to writing the Classical Candor blog, I served as the Movie Review Editor for the Web site Movie Metropolis (formerly DVDTown) from 1997-2013. Music and movies. Life couldn't be better.
It is the goal of Classical Candor to promote the enjoyment of classical music. Other forms of music come and go--minuets, waltzes, ragtime, blues, jazz, bebop, country-western, rock-'n'-roll, heavy metal, rap, and the rest--but classical music has been around for hundreds of years and will continue to be around for hundreds more. It's no accident that every major city in the world has one or more symphony orchestras.
When I was young, I heard it said that only intellectuals could appreciate classical music, that it required dedicated concentration to appreciate. Nonsense. I'm no intellectual, and I've always loved classical music. Anyone who's ever seen and enjoyed Disney's Fantasia or a Looney Tunes cartoon playing Rossini's William Tell Overture or Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 can attest to the power and joy of classical music, and that's just about everybody.
So, if Classical Candor can expand one's awareness of classical music and bring more joy to one's life, more power to it. It's done its job.
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