Les cris de Paris, Geoffroy Jourdain
Concerto Madrigalesco RV129, Sinfonia al Santo Sepolcro RV169, Kyrie RV587, Gloria RV589, Credo RV591, Magnificat RV610a
This disc revisits the “How was Vivaldi’s church music performed without men?” debate. Before I comment on Jourdain’s approach to it, I must first of all simply commend the performances; both singing and playing are absolutely first rate, with a glorious choral sound, agile and stylish soloists and very fine instrumental contributions from all concerned. The programme is built around a Venetian “messa intiera” (Kyrie, Gloria and Credo; apparently the Sanctus and Agnus Dei would have been recited by priests during instrumental music), and the rich variety of styles employed by Vivaldi is notable – I was struck by accented bass notes of the Crucifixus, for example. Jourdain has spent a long time researching and thinking about Vivaldi’s SATB church music, and come to the conclusion that the surviving scores are notated in that format to make it more available to performers outside the ospedale network; he thinks the normal modus operandi  where he directed the choir was that the upper three voices were performed as writ, with the bass sung an octave higher by a second group of altos (more often that not in unison with col basso violas!) All of this sounds reasonable, but my eyebrow arched at his contention that when the tenor part is “more interesting” than the soprano line, it should be transposed up an octave (with the happy consequence that doing so sometimes corrects Vivaldi’s naughty consecutive fifths). Who defines “more interesting”? And I worry about choral conductors who seem to think that “Joe Public” only listens to the soprano line (I’ve worked for and with a few!) This need not put anyone off acquiring the disc – as I said at the beginning, it’s a wonderfully accomplished recording that deserves to be widely enjoyed.