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Sacred Oratorios - Released October 25, 2019 | Alia Vox

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For a long time, we have subsisted on a fine version recorded in concert in Berlin, in 1974, performed by Vittorio Negri for the now-defunct Philips label. It was graced by some very lively conducting from great soloists including Elly Ameling (a magnificent Vaghaus), Birgit Finilä and Julia Hamari. The memory of this Juditha Triumphans is reinforced once again by the display on this album from Alia Vox which reproduces the famous work by Cristofani Allori, which hangs today in the Palazzo Pitti in Florence. First performed in Venice in 1716 to mark the victory of the Most Serene Republic over the Turks, this religious opera was written for the orphans of the girls' orphanage of Ospedale della Pietà, hence its all-female cast. This is the only one of Vivaldi's oratorios which has survived to the present day, and in its dramatic force and expressive power it heralds the coming of Georg Friedrich Handel's great oratorios. Recorded at the Philharmonie de Paris at a concert played in October 2018, this is one of the latest projects of the ever-inventive Jordi Savall. And it is Savall who captivates us most of all, thanks to the care taken over the details of an orchestra made up of a very wide variety of the instruments that were used in the famous Venetian institution: end-blown flutes, a chalumeau, clarinettes, a viola and a mandolin. Among the soloists on this recording, we should give particular attention to the vocal valiance of Rachel Redmond, who plays a very convincing servant of Holofernes, her musical agility reaching its peak in the aria Armatae Face. Jordi Savall shines new light on this score, imbuing it with an energy that unites charm and drama in a perfect balance. © François Hudry/Qobuz
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Sacred Oratorios - Released October 25, 2019 | Musique en Wallonie

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Sacred Oratorios - Released September 13, 2019 | Decca

Sir Adrian Boult’s first Messiah for Decca, newly remastered and coupled with a rare L’Oiseau-Lyre recording of the Bach Magnificat, new to CDWhen this Messiah was released in 1954, critics were quick to recognise it as exemplifying the English oratorio tradition at its finest. Boult used a large chorus – the London Philharmonic Choir, singing with superb discipline and clarity of articulation – but he rejected both the monumental style of performance cultivated by Sir Malcolm Sargent and the anachronistic trappings of Sir Thomas Beecham’s Handel. Boult slimmed down the LPO to chamber-orchestra dimensions, though he did not neglect the oratorio’s moments of grandeur, pathos and splendour. Almost everywhere, the recorded sound belies its age. With mono this vivid and with bass frequencies this powerful, few will pine for stereo. Each orchestral section is sharply delineated: a glint of oboe timbre here, a welcome emphasis on the bottom line’s crunchy bassoon timbre there. In fact his stereo remake from seven years later (with the London Symphony Orchestra) has a more old-fashioned feel, due at least in part to a more operatically scaled team of soloists. In 1954 Boult’s cast was led by the elegant and imperious soprano of Jennifer Vyvyan. The male soloists, too, found favour with Benjamin Britten when casting his operas; the recording is particularly valuable as a rare example on records of the artistry of the American tenor George Maran: always well-focused, assured from top to bottom of the register. More British singers on top form may be enjoyed in the coupling, a recording of Bach’s Magnificat made in 1955 for L’Oiseau-Lyre by the London-based Kalmar Chamber Orchestra and St Anthony Singers. The Swiss conductor Pierre Colombo, little known now, presides over a rhythmically vital account, lent a further ‘period’ feel by the stylish contributions of both the countertenor Alfred Deller and the slender, pure-toned soprano member of the Deller Consort, Eileen McLoughlin. This reissue is further enhanced by a new essay by R.J. Stove, contextualising both the works and these marvellous performances. (© Decca Music Group Limited / Universal Music Australia Pty Ltd.)
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Sacred Oratorios - Released June 28, 2019 | Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra

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Sacred Oratorios - Released June 1, 2019 | Passacaille

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Sacred Oratorios - Released May 3, 2019 | CPO

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Sacred Oratorios - Released April 12, 2019 | harmonia mundi

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions Diapason d'or - 4F de Télérama - Gramophone Record of the Month - Choc de Classica
The "Histoires Sacrées" of Marc-Antoine Charpentier are sometimes called little sacred operas, but they are really more like oratorios: they contain numbers sung by characters, but they have a great deal of narration, and they are in Latin. Sample here the scene in Judith, sive Bethulia liberata, H. 391, where Judith slices off the head of Holofernes: the emotional mood is just slightly heightened. These works have not often been recorded and take a bit of effort to absorb; one has to familiarize oneself with the Latin texts and with the mood of the whole, which is didactic rather than dramatic. The program here is strong, with three female biblical heroines exemplifying strength and virtue, and this helps you get into the expressive modes of the music. The "Histoires Sacrées" have not been recorded often. Until now the field has been ruled by a 2001 release from Gérard Lesne and his Baroque ensemble Il Seminario Musicale, and this release by the durable French group Ensemble Correspondances offers evidence of how much approaches vary in this still little-explored repertory. You can take your choice. Lesne has his engineers bring the microphone up to the soloists, whereas here, leader Sébastien Daucé chooses a more ambient approach that brings out instrumental detail. Lesne and his other soloists are stronger than the ones here, but Daucé may come closer to an authentic performance. Both choirs are small, probably in line with the private chamber circumstances for which these works were written; Daucé's group of 14 singers, mostly taking solos as well as singing in ensembles, is highly expressive even as it is woven into the more general texture. The album is accompanied by a DVD recorded at the Chapelle Royale at Versailles, but the main CDs were not: they come from small auditoriums in Grenoble and Amiens (apparently there were two sessions) that, as it happens, are entirely appropriate to the music. Recommended for Baroque buffs. © TiVo
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Sacred Oratorios - Released April 5, 2019 | Philharmonia Baroque Productions

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Sacred Oratorios - Released March 29, 2019 | Mirare

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions 5 de Diapason - Gramophone Editor's Choice
Composed by Dietrich Buxtehude in 1680 for the church of Lübeck, where he had been working for ten years, Membra Jesu Nostri describes the scars of the Passion of Christ through a cycle of seven cantatas. The work owes its title to a Latin manuscript written by a relative of Saint Bernard. Typical of the pietism of 17th century Lutheran Germany, the piece is a descent into the darkness of suffering and an ode to the promise of consolation. Grounded in rhetoric, Buxtehude’s music influenced a generation of innovative musicians. It would later be an inspiration to Johann Sebastian Bach, who traveled to Lübeck specifically to meet Buxtehude. Membra Jesus Nostri was written for a five-voice ensemble. It requires a set of soloists with three lower voices and two upper parts, as well as a subtle instrumental accompaniment featuring two violins, five viols, and one basso continuo chose by the musicians. Some authors have seen the influence of the “Versailles Motet,” which Buxtehude knew well, in this setup. The influence of Italian music, especially Monteverdi, which he may have known through his interest in Schütz’s music, is also clear. The work is the testimony to Buxtehude’s incredibly expressive power and deserves to be considered as a masterpiece among other spiritual compositions such as Schütz’s Musikalische Exequien, Bach’s Passions and, on an instrumental level, Biber’s Sonates du Rosaire.According to Philippe Pierlot, who can be heard on the record, “Buxtehude is appealing directly to our senses and making us experience the suffering of Christ. We can feel the wounds, the blows, and the heart when it ceases to beat. Thanks to the genius of his music, the composer not only moves his listener to intense emotion, but also enlightens him, giving him access to the deep meaning of the text it sings” © François Hudry/Qobuz
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Sacred Oratorios - Released March 15, 2019 | CPO

Booklet Distinctions 5 de Diapason
The Oratorium zur Einweihung der neuen St. Michaelis-Kirche, or Michaelis-Oratorium for short, was written for the dedication in 1762 of the new St. Michael's church in Hamburg by the 81-year-old Georg Philipp Telemann. The structure replaced one destroyed by lightning in 1750; the congregants declared that their god was a wrathful one and set about gathering funds for a new structure. The text contains a good deal of detail that pertained to the specific cultural background in Hamburg, and the album may be of interest to scholarly and academic listeners for this reason; the booklet goes into a depth unusual even for the specialist German label CPO. General listeners will also find much to enjoy, however, starting with the clean performances of the Kölner Akademie under Michael Alexander Willens, with a quartet of soloists led by tenor Julian Podger. The music is impressively varied, mixing trumpet-and-drum choruses appropriate to the festive occasion, more reflective chorales that seem to address the troubled circumstances of the new church's construction, and lighter pieces in the style of the middle 18th century. Sample the attractive alto aria "Tempel, den die Lieb erbauet", which could have come from the pen of Gluck. Despite its stylistic plurality, it all holds together, and conveys a strong sense of the occasion for which it was written. The work as a whole functions as a kind of summation of Telemann's career, and it would be a varied and colorful addition for any choral concert. A nice find from CPO. © TiVo
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Sacred Oratorios - Released March 8, 2019 | Oehms Classics

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Sacred Oratorios - Released January 18, 2019 | Paraty

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Sacred Oratorios - Released December 1, 2018 | Musikproduktion Dabringhaus und Grimm (MDG)

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Sacred Oratorios - Released November 23, 2018 | Musique en Wallonie

Booklet Distinctions 5 de Diapason
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Sacred Oratorios - Released August 31, 2018 | Alpha

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions 5 de Diapason - 5 Sterne Fono Forum Klassik
There is no shortage of parallels to be drawn between Caldara and Vivaldi: both Venetians, both boasting an impressive body of work running to several hundred pieces of all genres, both died in Vienna (in the same street and in the same penury!), although Caldara had written more operas and oratorios than the Red Priest. And here is one of these very 32 known oratorios, Maddalena ai piedi di Christo written in Venice around 1698; it is "oratorio volgare", that is, recited in Italian, rather than Latin. Originally written as an accompaniment to spiritual exercises, the oratorio came to replace profane operas when the theatres were closed, especially from November to Lent. It took on the guise of opera, and used many of its techniques: naves and altars were (re)decorated and mechanisms and costumes were employed. In reality, it was nothing but an opera with a religious theme... The words and the plot of Maddalena ai piedi di Christo are perfectly suited to these months of penitence. It is a drama of the moral breakdown that tortures the sinner who has to choose between worldly and heavenly love, between living a life of luxury and truly promising herself to Christ. The Le Banquet Céleste ensemble, led by Damien Guillon (who also sings the alto part of Divine Love), takes to this rare piece with fervour. © SM/Qobuz
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Sacred Oratorios - Released March 23, 2018 | Glossa

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions 5 de Diapason
The indefatigable Antonio Florio, along with his associates from Cappella Neapolitana, has succeeded, with a work by Donato Ricchezza, in unearthing another major rediscovery from the Neapolitan Baroque. The labours of Florio – coupled with the ability to turn dry notes on a dusty manuscript into a sumptuous audio feast – can be no better demonstrated than with this release on Glossa of Los Santos Niños: “Oratorio di San Giusto e San Pastore”, written by a composer who was a pupil of the great Francesco Provenzale. Very little else is known about Donato Ricchezza (c1650-1722), apart from him bequeathing a quantity of scores to the Oratory of the Girolamini in Naples where he worked. The oratorio relates the story of the defence offered by the “holy children” – the brothers Giusto and Pastore, to be martyred in Spain during the Persecution of Diocletian in 303/4 – against the charge of being Christians, as levelled against them first by a soldier and then by the Roman governor Daciano. Marta Fumagalli (contralto), Federica Pagliuca (soprano), Luca Cervoni (tenor) and Giuseppe Naviglio (bass) vividly occupy these four vocal roles.Why Ricchezza chose this story in 1683 Naples is discussed by Dinko Fabris in his enlightening booklet essay. Meagre additional knowledge about Ricchezza says that he wrote eight other oratorios and, as a bonus, an aria from La gara degli elementi is included here, as are a pair of sinfonias by Ricchezza’s contemporary (and fellow pupil of Provenzale), Gaetano Veneziano. © Glossa

Sacred Oratorios - Released December 8, 2017 | New York Philharmonic

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Sacred Oratorios - Released November 24, 2017 | Bella Musica Edition

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Sacred Oratorios - Released October 6, 2017 | CPO

Booklet Distinctions 4 étoiles Classica
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Sacred Oratorios - Released April 7, 2017 | Sony Classical

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions Diapason d'or - 5 Sterne Fono Forum Klassik